Professor Joe Roise is outstanding in his field – a field in eastern South Dakota, that is. Yesterday, the North Carolina State University faculty member, along with graduate student Bobby Williams, joined one of the East River TREX fire crews to test a new fire shelter prototype during one of the training exchange’s prescribed fires in the Madison Wetland Management District.
One year after Arizona’s 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire resulted in the tragic loss of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, the U.S. Forest Service entered into a collaborative agreement with the NASA Langley Research Center to examine potential improvements to fire shelter performance. It’s a logical partnership since there are common performance requirements between fire shelters and flexible heat shields, and additional research can be used to benefit both organizations.
At the same time, Roise’s university received a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant to develop new material improving on existing fabric technology and raise the performance of the current fire shelters. Researchers from North Carolina State’s College of Textiles and Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources teamed up to research and propose improvements.
Thus far, the North Carolina researchers have lab tested their shelters by replicating heat in a fire chamber at the University’s Centennial Campus. This week’s trip to South Dakota gives them an opportunity to further field test their work, which has previously only been done in chaparral in Southern California. After burning in native tall grass prairie species here, they’ll also test their shelter models in other vegetation types, including highly-flammable marshland in Virginia, various species of pine in North Florida, and timber in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
“The whole project is extremely important because it can save lives across the nation,” Roise said. “That’s the bottom line: saving lives.”
A series of 11 photographs showing Monday's field test is posted on the East River TREX Inciweb photo link at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/photographs/5169/