• Safi Bello

New NASA-Inspired Fire Shelters Could Better Withstand Blazes

Scientific American ------ Despite the most scrupulous planning, wildland firefighters can suddenly find themselves encircled by unpredictable flames reaching nearly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Unable to escape, they have no choice but to hunker down inside fire shelters—reflective, foil-like mini tents—and hope the flames pass over them quickly. In the summer of 2013, 19 firefighters deployed their standard-issue shelters in Yarnell Hill, Ariz.—but the conflagration proved too much, and none of them survived. After learning of the tragedy, scientists at the NASA Langley Research Center set out to build a better shelter. They used inflatable heat-shield technology designed to withstand the scorching temperatures that spacecraft endure when passing through Earth's atmosphere (2,000 to 5,000 degrees F). In mid-April the U.S. Forest Service blasted the NASA shelters with flames at a research facility at the University of Alberta. Results have not yet been released, but earlier tests were promising. If this space technology proves sturdy enough, firefighters may carry it into the woods this summer. To learn more click on the picture below to read the article.


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