New Fire Shelter Could Have Withstood Flames of Yarnell Hill Fire, Creator Says

A demonstration of the materials in the SunSeeker blanket.
A demonstration of the materials in the SunSeeker blanket.

The creator of a new fire shelter says his product can withstand temperatures hotter than the flames that killed the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots in the Yarnell Hill Fire in June.

Jim Moseley, who developed the SunSeeker Fire Blanket, says the shelters can withstand temperatures of about 2,500 degrees -- about five times more than the shelters used by wildland firefighters today can withstand.

See also:
-Granite Mountain Hotshots: How 19 Firefighters Died Battling the Yarnell Hill Fire

The Granite Mountain Hotshots were exposed to temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, according to the official report on the fire.

The father of fallen hotshot Travis Turbyfill showed up at the news briefing on that report, asking for an explanation about the shelters the crew deployed, which he claimed were inadequate.

Those shelters start to break down when exposed to temperatures around 500 degrees, and so many of the shelter's layers had burned away that investigators weren't sure whether Travis Turbyfill was able to fully enclose himself in his shelter before the flames came. The disintegrated shelter was found underneath his body.

Turbyfill, 27, died right next to 21-year-old crewmate Kevin Woyjeck, whom investigators determined did encase himself completely in his shelter. Much of Woyjeck's shelter burned away, too. His pants and part of his shirt also burned away, and his gloves were charred and shrunken. Half of his helmet melted. Neither Woyjeck nor any of the other men stood a chance of survival.

Turbyfill's father, Dave, didn't get any answers, although he did claim that better fire-shelter technology was being produced.

However, the SunSeeker company isn't producing these new shelters at this point -- the company's currently soliciting donations on its website.

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