AZ Wildfire: Special Tents Not Enough To Save Firefighters

6:33 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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Some of the firefighters killed in this weekend's Arizona wildfire tried to take cover under special tents they carry with them. The tents are made of something you probably have in your kitchen: aluminum foil. However, it's a heavy duty version. The inside of the tent is also lined with fiberglass.

The goal is to get the tent setup in about ten to fifteen seconds. The tent is very lightweight. If there are high winds, it's almost like opening an umbrella on a windy day. Once inside the tent, you point your feet toward the fire because your boots can protect you a bit.

"If you get in this tent, you're going to feel the heat. It's not going to reflect 100 percent of it. So, you're going to get burned. You're going to feel the heat," NC District Forester Kevin Harvell said. "I try to imagine what it was like out there. It's gut wrenching what they must have gone through. I feel tremendous sadness for them and the families."

The tents are a last resort. Harvell has never had to use his during his seventeen year career.

North Carolina Forest Service members will wear black bands around their badge for the next week to honor the members of the Arizona Hotshot Team.

The last time this many firefighters died in this kind of a situation was in 1933. Twenty-five firefighters were killed in Los Angeles. On average, wildfires around the country kill about fifteen firefighters a year.
The Forest Service will investigate everything and create a "lessons learned" report within the next few months. This tragedy could change the way firefighters and hotshot crews respond to fires in the future.

North Carolina has one "Hotshot" team. They are based in Asheville and called "The Asheville Hotshots." Hotshot teams have twenty members. Each person has a specialty. Members must be strong, tough and in top physical shape.

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