Firsthand look at safety equipment used by Hotshot Firefighters

Firsthand look at safety equipment used by Hotshot Firefighters

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – ABC 4 Utah is getting a first hand look at the safety gear that would have been used by the 19 firefighters who died behind a wall of flames in Arizona. The equipment they use may surprise you.
Wildfires (ABC News)
Wildfires (ABC News)
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – ABC 4 Utah is getting a first hand look at the safety gear that would have been used by the 19 firefighters who died behind a wall of flames in Arizona. The equipment they use may surprise you.

When you look at Hotshot crews who battle some of the meanest wildfires Mother Nature can whip up, you may not realize they don't have a lot tools do it.

"Part of the nature of the job is you got to be able to move," said Reid Shelley, Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Assist. Fire Management Officer Over Fire Prevention.

Fire Management Officer Reid Shelley with the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest tells ABC 4 Utah’s Brian Carlson that means packing light. Shelley showed Carlson a typical pack that would've have been used by the 19 firefighters killed this week Arizona, which included Utahn Joe Thurston. Inside their bags, you would've seen what you might expect a helmet, goggles, gloves and light fire resistant clothing.

"This is made out of Nomex, the same thing guys use for turnouts, but it's a lot thinner," said Shelley.

They also have tools to dig fire lines, but other than that the only other means for protection crews carry with them is an emergency fire shelter designed to protect fire fighters when flames kick up quicker than expected. It's believed all of the 19 firefighters who died, used to their shelters as a last resort trying to survive.

"And what is this?” asked Reporter Brian Carlson.

“This one's the new shelter," said Shelley.

Shelley showed Carlson the material the shelters are made of.

"There’s aluminum foil but this one is laminated onto a silicon cloth," said Shelley.

He said they're not made to endure long exposure to the flames.

"What these are super effective is, is if your situation where you've got a fire that's coming that’s going to be a quick burn over then they're pretty effective, but if you've got something that's going to give you sustained heat, that's a different story," he said.

Shelley pulled out a practice shelter, and had Carlson get in to see how it works.

But of all the tools Shelley said Hotshot firefighters have to protect themselves, he said the most useful is the training they receive that usually keeps them out of harm's way.

"If I know how the fire is going to behave then I can make myself safe and avoid those situations that are going to cause problems," said Shelley.

When people talk about Hotshots crew training, not only do they have to pass an initial 40 hour course, they take a new safety classes every year.

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Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @briancarlsontv
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