Last June, a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona overtook and killed 19 firefighters – even though they had set up fireproof shelters. This inspired Phoenix-based SunSeeker Enterprises to develop a shelter that's better able to withstand the high heat of forest fires. Utilizing a material licensed from NASA to protect the Space Shuttle on re-entry, the Fire Blanket is the result.
The blanket is made from a ceramic fiber coated in a zirconia/inconel spray, and weighs in at a little under 7 lb (3.2 kg). This is a couple of pounds heavier than the tent-style shelters currently used, but unlike those, the Fire Blanket can reportedly withstand temperatures of up to 3,000º F (1,648º C). According to SunSeeker, many existing shelters aren't rated above 500º F (260º C) even though the average forest fire temperature is 2,400º F (1,315º C).
Also, unlike other shelters that are carried in a bag, plans call for the Fire Blanket to be kept in a backpack that the user wears while firefighting. When the blanket is needed, the wearer will deploy it from that pack like a wingsuit, then draw it around their body. Wingsuit manufacturer Rigging Innovations is reportedly working on that end of the design.
SunSeeker is now raising production funds for the Fire Blanket, in an Indiegogo campaign. Assuming all goes according to plans, a pledge of US$499 will get you a Fire Cloak – this is sort of a home-use version of the Fire Blanket, designed to protect people as they evacuate a burning building ... it kind of brings the Tornado Shield to mind.
More information is available in the following video.
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