Emergency Shelters Are Defense For Wildland Fighters - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Emergency Shelters Are Defense For Wildland Fighters

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MISSOULA -

While officials are still investigating the circumstances in which the firefighters of the Arizona fire died, we do know that all 19 of them deployed their fire shelters. Fire officials said these fire shelters are an indication the firefighters had no place to turn.

When wildland firefighters can't get an extreme fire under control, and there is no escape route in sight, there is sometimes nothing left for crews to do but hide.

"It's something you can't put into words. You kick into an automatic mode, knowing you need to get in to this," said Rod Goss with the Grayback Forestry, Inc.

Since the 1970's, fire shelters have been a mandatory safety equipment for wildland firefighters. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the devices are made of fiberglass and aluminum, creating a personal tent-like shelter.

"It's something you never want to find yourself in," Goss said.

Grayback Forestry, Inc. specializes in fuels management and emergency services. It sends crews and other equipment to wildland fires all over the nation.

As a level one trainer, part of Goss' job is to make sure crews are trained to use a fire shelter.

"If you should find yourself in that position, depending on the situation you're in, this will save your life, or at least help," he said.

Firefighters are trained to be able to deploy the shelter in about 30 seconds. Goss said the shelters help reflect heat and give firefighters healthier air to breathe, but he said they should be used only in a worse-case scenario.

"All else has failed, your escape route, you're safety zone, you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, then this is your last resort," Goss said.

Crews continue to investigate why these men died despite deploying these shelters.

The National Interagency Fire Center said fire shelters cannot withstand prolonged extreme heat. Officials said a wind event, like the one they believe may have occurred in Yarnell, can create a worse-case scenario for even the most experienced firefighter.

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