Building the super fire shelter

Building the super fire shelter

01 December 2013

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USA — James Moseley of Santa Clarita doesn’t want to reinvent the mousetrap – he wants to build a more durable safety net for fire fighters than the shelters that failed to protect 19 hot shot fire fighters in the June Yarnell, Arizona wild fire.

Three of the young men that died on that elite fire fighting crew were from California.

Moseley got the idea for building a far superior fire shelter when a friend of his, the CFO of a California aerospace firm, gave him a tour of the company that made parts for space rockets and fire jets when he stumbled across some heat shielding tiles and materials.

Fire shelters have been required safety equipment for those battling wild fires since 1977. Current shelters that fire fighters deploy when caught in a racing inferno work by reflecting radiant heat and trapping breathable air under the “blankets.”

But, the second generation shelters issued around 2003 only protect a person in temperatures up to 500 degree Fahrenheit before the shelters begin to break down, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Moseley believes the product he is developing will withstand temperatures up to 2,500 degrees.

Tracing the material back to the patent holder, Moseley was given permission to use it for certain applications – like his SunSeeker fire blanket, he said.

He also found a special black cloth held by another company that “was so secret, they wouldn’t even tell him the name of the of it.” But, they did give him permission to use it for his fire blanket shelter, he said.

Securing the rights and getting safety certifications from Underwriter’s Laboratories and the International Code Council, have resulted in Moseley sinking $150,000 of his own money into developing the fire shelter, he estimated.

A successful musician in his own right – having worked with Grammy winner Roger Williams, the London Symphony Orchestra and more, Moseley said he’s also been a life-long entrepreneur.

“For first time I found something that has amazing strength and validity for humanity; it’s a real problem solver,” Moseley said. “I’m able to take things and see other uses that are needed.”

Moseley’s such a believer he’s been demonstrating his idea on the road from Malibu to Arizona, and talking to people across the country.

He’s been televised melting pennies with a blow torch while resting on the material – supported by his unprotected hand underneath.

“I put everything on hold and said let’s just do this,” he said. “Why save one life at a time and not 19 at a time.”

Right now, Moseley is just trying to raise funds to begin the developing prototypes of the products and he’s had some firefighters not only endorse his idea – but pitch in money to help get the products started.

Rick McCauley, a firefighter for 25 years and working in central-eastern Arizona, donated $2,500 himself.

McCauley said that he had worked in the past with the hot shot crew that perished in the Yarnell fire.

“I knew that crew by their reputation,” he said. “The loss was extremely hard not just for wild land people, but the entire firefighting industry. It was felt by everyone.”

Now that existing material has been identified that could save lives of his fellow brothers and sisters in the fire service, McCauley said he feels passionate about supporting the effort to develop the third generation fire shelter.

“With what he wants to do with it (the shelter) it would make it a third generation shelter,” he said. “It would definitely revolutionize the technology.”

Today’s shelter costs between $400 to $500, McCauley said. Prices for a third generation fire shelter are unknown right now, he said, but “how do you put a price on a life?” he said.

Moseley and the firefighters who support his effort also see potential for this material to be used in scores of other applications that would protect structures and people from fire – including for use in the “turn outs” – the yellow uniforms fire fighters wear when battling a blaze.

For the time being, however, Moseley needs to raise more funds to get through the next phase of development and would welcome a strategic investor if that helps to get the product to market faster.

“The technology he demonstrated is going to help quite a few of us in the trenches immensely,” said Mark Armenta, also a wild land fire fighter and colleague of McCauley.

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