Fire fighters (and support crews) are taught how to use the shelters. California State OES Auxiliary Communications Service, communications specialists (with Satellite and Communications Vans sent to the fire camps on request) are also taught that and are provided with protective personal equipment (PPE) clothing as a matter of safety. That training course is the one from which these notes were taken.
The shelters that fire fighters use are a one-person tent-like extremely light weight compact folded kit they carry on the fireline; usually on their backpack at the bottom. They can reach around, give a yank, and it will pop out, They turn and flip it open, step into it and kneel or fall face down to the ground.
Before doing that they must find a survivable area in which to deploy the shelter (which is somewhat like a "space blanket" pup tent configuration in appearance and weight.)
Trainees are taught a variety of deployment details, such as
- To deploy their fire shelters in a drainage ditch on the uphill side of a road cut unless it contains fuels that can ignite.
- Large objects that will not burn, such as large rocks or piles of dirt between them and the approaching flames can help
- To stay out of draws, even when deploying on a road;
- To maximize distance from burnable fuels
- To pick a surface that allows the shelter to seal
- To get into the shelter before the flame front hits.
- To position their feet facing the fire and hold down the shelter keeping their face pressed to the ground;
- To deploy next to each other and keep talking (reduce the fear factor as having a fire pass over you is no picnic.)
- Not to use their water to wet clothing or bandana inside the fire shelter as it conducts heat much more quickly than dry and burns are more likely. Further, evaporating water will increase humidity inside the shelter which can cause more damage to airways than dry air at the same temperature.
In the shelter, they can expect:
- Extremely heavy ember showers;
- Superheated air blast to hit before the flame front hits;
- Noise and turbulent powerful winds hitting the fire shelter
- Pin holes in the fire shelter that allow fire to glow inside
- Heat inside the shelter = Extreme heat outside
- Deployments have lasted up to 90 minutes
- When in doubt, wait it out
An entrapment survivor said: It was extremely painful....Things were going through my head were, "I'm going to die, this is going to kill me."...Afterwards, I remember thinking that because my legs were burned on the back of both calves and the backs of my thighs and it was painful and it had gone on for such a long time that they're probably going to have to amputate my legs. You believe that you're being burned to death or that you're being burned to the point that you'd never be able to use those limbs again, when in fact (my injuries) were deep third degree burns. But....I ended up...being able to recover and not have any really serious disability. We need to make sure that people know what they may encounter, what it may be like, and what they might hear and see around them and to know above all else that if they get up, you die....... .....People have to know that up front, going into this, or they're just going to be surprised by it when they get in there and start feeling these things and go, "Oh, my God, I'm dying. What do I do now?" You have to condition them to know what the response to that should be, "Oh, my God, I'm dying. Well, they told me I would. And, so I need to stay here."
(Source: "Your Fire Shelter 2001 Edition" a publication of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.)
End of subject.