CHIEFS (Convective Heating Im provement for Emergency Fire Shelters) is being developed by NASA’s Langley Research Center to potentially improve the performance of emergency fire shelters for wildland firefighters. A fire shelter is a last-resort safety measure that may protect firefighters entrapped by wildfire that has compromised their escape route. The current shelter design, resembling a small foldable tent, is primarily designed to protect the user from exposure from radiant heat. It provides limited protection when exposed to direct flame contact and convective heat. The Washington Office Fire and Aviation Management (WO-FAM) initiated a product review for the fire shelters to be completed by 2018. NASA is working closely with the USDA Forest Service to understand the emergency fire shelter requirements and testing procedures.
The CHIEFS fire shelter material will use technology drawn from a new spacecraft flexible heat shield NASA is developing for future planetary exploration missions. By modifying this material, utilizing heat shield test methods, and experimenting with different shelter structures, the CHIEFS team strives to improve the convective thermal performance of the shelter while minimizing any increase in the weight and packed volume of the current shelter. To protect against radiant heat, the exterior of the shelter uses a laminate that reflects more than 90 percent of the radiant heat from a forest fire. To protect against convective heat and hot gases or direct flame contact, the interior layers will be high-temperature insulation layers and a gas barrier layer to keep hot gasses from entering the shelter’s interior.
The CHIEFS system is optimized for manufacturability and packing, and is capable of withstanding temperatures up to 3000 °F. This technology can be used by wildland firefighters and first responders.