- FEDERAL FIREFIGHTING AGENCIES AND GSA RECALL
NEW GENERATION FIRE SHELTERS
Boise, Idaho The Federal firefighting agencies and the General Services
Administration (GSA) are recalling 68,000 previously manufactured new
generation fire shelters for a retrofit to strengthen a corner of the
product. About 19,000 of the shelters are currently being carried by
state, federal and contract firefighters.
Fire shelters are required equipment for firefighters, but are considered a
tool of last resort and should never be needed if situational awareness,
risk management and discipline are employed to make the right decisions in
strategy and tactics on wildland fires.
In mid-March, an alert was submitted to the agencies SAFENET program
describing a tear that occurred during deployment practice. The SAFENET
program is an anonymous reporting system firefighters use to alert managers
to observed unsafe practices and allow managers to investigation or make
corrections based on the report. According to the SAFENET, the tear was in
the floor material near the shake handles used to quickly deploy the shelter.
Equipment specialists at the Forest Services Missoula Technology and
Development Center (MTDC) immediately researched the problem and confirmed
that some shelters were tearing near the shake handles during
deployment. All the tears were in the floor material with the floor coming
away from the seam connecting the floor to the side of the shelter.
MTDC equipment specialists, in consultation with an outside engineering
expert, believe the added risk associated with the potential tearing of the
shelter is very small because the location of the weakness is in the
floor. However, interagency fire management leadership, specialists at
MTDC and GSA are taking immediate action to fix the problem in order to
ensure that firefighters are provided the best quality product.
No rips occurred during the extensive testing we did before the design
went to the manufacturers. But we do acknowledge the issue, and have
developed a fix in the design to strengthen the area of the shake handles,
said fire shelter specialist Leslie Anderson of MTDC.
The design fix is being applied to all newly manufactured shelters, and the
shelters recalled will be retrofitted with an improvement to the
handle. The eleven national fire caches are no longer distributing the new
generation fire shelter until the retrofit has been completed, or newly
manufactured shelters with the design fix are received.
State and federal firefighters should return the newer shelters to the
nearest federal cache. Firefighters will use the older style shelter until
supplies of the newly manufactured or retrofitted shelters become
available. The older style shelters have saved 300 lives since the 1970s,
and provide good protection against radiant and thermal heat when deployed
Some firefighters may not be able to obtain an older style shelter
immediately due to the limited number, but the newly manufactured shelters
and the retrofitted shelters will be available widely within the next two
months. According to the manufacturers, retrofitting should proceed
quickly, at the rate of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 per week, plus
production of about 5,000 per month of the newly manufactured shelters.