PHOENIX -- Tragedy struck more than four months ago. Nineteen firefighters were killed when they were trapped in the Yarnell Hill Wildfire. Although an investigative report found no negligence, recklessness or violation of policy, it did point to insufficient fire shelters. The raging wildfire burned at more than 2,000 degrees, but fire shelters were only developed to withstand about 500 degrees.
A new company has come up with the SunSeeker Fire Blanket. The core is made from a NASA-developed ceramic fiber material used as a heat shield on the space shuttles. Now that the shuttle program has ended, that material is being used for other products, including potential fire shelters.
It was the Yarnell Hill tragedy that spurred development.
"Our goal is to make sure that, in the near future, firefighters in this position have a fighting chance with the SunSeeker Fire Blanket," reads the Southern California-based company's website.
Blow torch in hand, the founder CEO of SunSeeker Enterprises, Inc., Jim Moseley, put on a stunning demonstration. The fire shelter wildland crews carry now burned after just 30 seconds of extreme heat. Then he showed how the SunSeeker Fire Blanket held up and stayed intact.
To prove the severity of the heat, he then melted a penny on top of the blanket. The only thing between Moseley's bare hand and the flame from the blow torch was the ceramic fiber blanket that would be the core of the new fire shelters.
Firefighters are exited about the potential, Mosley said, telling him they would take that blanket out with them now if they could.
Moseley's company is trying to raise money to develop a prototype. They are turning to crowd-sourced funding, hoping the public will help with the money. The potentially life-saving product is at least six months away from being tested and perhaps years from becoming reality.
If you like to learn more or support the development of the SunSeeker Fire Blanket, check out more www.sunseekerfireblanket.com.