DECEMBER, 1998 - Fire scientists and engineers gather a wide variety of experts in thermal protection and toxicity testing to identify the tests necessary to adequately assess fire shelter performance. Participants in the meeting include specialists from the Underwriter's Laboratories, SGS-US Testing Company, Gentex Corp, the University of Alberta, Storm King Mountain Technologies, the USDA Forest Service's Fire Sciences Laboratory and the Missoula Technology and Development Center. The participants at the meeting decide there is no existing full-scale test for new fire shelter materials.
SUMMER, 1999 - University of Alberta mechanical engineer, Mark Ackerman, is asked to do a complete review of existing test methods and standards. The goal of the review is to further research and identify tests that had potential as either material screening tests or performance assessment tests. He concluded that there is no existing test method that could adequately measure the performance of a complete fire shelter.
SPRING, 1999 - The Forest Service includes funding requests for the 2000 appropriations for testing development and implementation of fire shelters.
SUMMER, 1999 - Testing experts told MTDC that tests could be developed if data is provided that described the fire environment in which the shelter needs to perform. MTDC, the Forest Service's Fire Science Laboratories and the University of Alberta gather the needed data at the International Crown Fire Experiments in Canada's Northwest Territories.
FALL, 1999 - Fiscal year 2000 begins in October, 1999. MTDC is funded for fire shelter development and testing. Contracting work begins for testing organizations.
DECEMBER, 1999 - The University of Alberta's Combustion and Environment Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering is awarded a contract to develop appropriate performance tests for the fire shelter. The new tests have to be:
· Repeatable - so that each shelter is exposed to the same conditions. Although field-testing of fire shelters has provided important information, the widely variable conditions make the results of some tests questionable.
· Performed in a third-party, independent testing laboratory to ensure repeatability and impartiality.
FEBRUARY, 2000 - The University of Alberta begins development of full-scale radiant and thermal tests, as well as several small-scale material performance tests. The development of these tests is completed in June, 2000.
APRIL, 2000 - MTDC lets a second contract to SGS-US Testing Company, Inc. for the development of a new toxicity test. The test, developed with additional input from Omega Point Labs and the University of Alberta, is used to ensure there is breathable air inside the new fire shelter materials.
JUNE, 2001 - MTDC contracts with the University of Alberta for small-scale comparative radiant, thermal and convective testing. Several organizations and private businesses submit 60 materials for testing. Of these, 40 materials from 11 private companies are carried over for this small-scale testing.
Results from this first round of testing allows MTDC to select several materials to continue on to full-scale radiant and convective tests. Based on promising results in the thermal testing, three companies re-submit their materials after re-engineering to improve strength characteristics.
SEPTEMBER, 2001 - The materials that satisfactorily completed this first round of tests, plus additional products provided by three more companies with expertise in thermal materials, are tested. In addition, the effect of shape on radiant and convective heat was modeled to identify an optimum fire shelter design.
OCTOBER, 2001 - Full scale testing on 14 shelters begins at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Analysis of samples gathered for toxicity screening are completed in early November, durability testing results are completed in early February, 2002.
DECEMBER, 2001 - Higher intensity, longer duration convective testing of nine shelters is performed at Omega Point Labs.
FEBRUARY, 2002 - Fire shelter options are presented to the leadership representatives of federal wildland firefighting agencies. The directors select four shelters for final product testing.
NEXT STEP: The final four shelter designs will undergo further full-scale testing to validate the earlier results of the products. Once a preferred product is selected, MTDC will provide drawings and specifications to the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA will oversee the contracting, manufacture and distribution of the next generation of fire shelter. Approximately 100,000 shelters of the newer shelters will be available in June, 2003.