A Safer Defense

Wildfires have raged across the United States this past year, burning through 8.5 million acres in the western part of the country alone. When wildland firefighters find themselves in danger of being overrun by flames, they have one final line of defense: a portable shelter.

At NC State’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center, research associate John Morton-Aslanis and the Wildland Firefighters Shelter project team are working to build a better shelter.

Because these tent-like structures are used only when there are no other options, they must be quickly deployable, withstand incredibly high temperatures and allow the sheltered firefighter to breathe.

Morton-Aslanis and his team replicate wildfire conditions as part of their research. Using fireballs that reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, they test how textiles stand up to the heat and better protect the shelter’s interior — and save firefighters.

“These are human lives. That’s what’s important to realize,” Morton-Aslanis said. “You work in a laboratory, but it affects real people.”