A fire shelter is a safety device. This device is used by fire fighters particularly when they are stuck in wildfires. It is designed in a manner that it reflects radiant heat while protecting the firefighter from heat. The fire shelter can also trap fresh breathable air to be used by the wild firefighters. This is crucial because it preserves their life by protecting them from hot gases. Over time, materials which have been used to manufacture fire shelters are not environment-friendly. These materials are silica fiberglass and foil. Foil is a reflective material while fiberglass and silica act as good insulators. They are used in a lining on the inner layer of the fire shelter to prevent convective heat from reaching firefighters. The materials used are not good to the environment.
Silica has a negative impact on aquatic animal life. One of the constituent compounds in silica is cobalt chloride, which is hazardous to life. Similarly, foil is not bi-degradable, making it environmentally unfriendly. It remains in the environment for so long, meaning that it is a pollutant. Worse is the fact that foil cannot be recycled easily. According to studies, only 5% of foil may be recycled because there is a great difficulty involved in separating the constituent materials of foil. This implies that foil should not be employed in the manufacture of fire shelters. On the other hand, fiberglass is also non-biodegradable. It prevents a major challenge to environmental conservation efforts when disposed.
It is clear from the information above that the materials being used currently in the manufacture of fire shelters are harmful to the environment. This begs the question, “which materials may be employed to substitute silica, foil, and fiberglass?” By substituting current materials with others that are environment-friendly, this challenge may be overcome. Foil may be replaced by another material which reflects radiant heat just as well but which is bio-degradable. A good example of a potential substitute of foil is a substance known as Mylar foil. This material may be used as a cover over aluminum foil. This makes it bio-degradable.
Similarly, fiberglass may be replaced by ceramic fiber. Ceramic fiber is biodegradable and can also withstand temperatures between 1,472°F and 2, 5462°F. in the last few years, a company in Valencia, CA has developed a prototype of a ceramic fiber fire shelter. Silica found on land does not cause any serious health effects when it reacts with other chemicals like cobalt chloride. It is important that other chemicals that do not have a negative effect on aquatic life are used. This implies that silica may still be employed in newer versions of fire shelters provided that no chemical additives make it unfriendly to the environment.
The New Generation Fire Shelter (PDF). National Wildfire Coordinating Group. March 2003. Retrieved 2014-03-25. http://www.nwcg.gov/pms/pubs/newshelt72.pdf