Life-Saving Fire Curtains: Needed in Washington State
With wildfire season in Washington State fast approaching - Susannah Frame and the KING 5 Investigators found a life saving piece of equipment:
“Fire Barrier Curtains”
Since 2009, this product has saved the lives of two dozen firefighters. It has worked every time it’s been used.
Not many wildfire fighters here in Washington have it.
Fire Barrier Curtains are made of multiple layers of aluminum that roll up. They are installed inside the cabs of bulldozers and other rigs that work the hazardous conditions of wildland firefighting. In the worst-case scenario of a dramatic & violent wind shift – the curtains are unrolled and fastened with velcro around the windows.
They saved my life. I’m 100 percent sure
Redding, California wildfire dozer operator
In 2018, Don Andrews was working inside his dozer during the Carr Fire in Northern California. “I’ve done it for 30 years, and I never saw it coming.”
The deadly Carr Fire had record-breaking winds of 160 mph - spawning a fire tornado.
Don had zero time to drive to safety. A wall of intense flame was moving his way like a runaway freight train.
He unrolled his fire curtains, that his employer insisted he have. Andrews made it out unharmed. Two firefighters near him didn’t survive, including another dozer operator who didn’t have fire curtains.
In 1994, engineer Jim Roth’s life changed.
That was the year Roger Roth, his little brother, died on Storm King Mountain in Colorado.
Roger Roth, a 29-year-old smokejumper from Idaho, perished along with 13 other firefighters. They unsuccessfully tried to use their fire shelters to save their lives.
Afterward, Jim Roth created a company dedicated to his fallen brother: Storm King Mountain Technologies.
I was very, very, angry. Just really angry with how he (was) taken away at such a young age. I didn’t do anything with fire until I lost my brother, and it totally changed my life.
Storm King Mountain fire curtains are sold all over the world.
In 2015, three U.S. Forest Service firefighters died when flames from the Twisp River Fire overtook their vehicle. They were trying to escape flames by driving their brush engine out of harm’s way when they were blinded by smoky conditions and veered off the road.
There were no fire curtains to unroll and deploy.
Here in our state, fire curtains are not mandatory and not commonly used. None of the state Department of Natural Resource (DNR) engines, bulldozers or excavators have them.
State officials said their focus is:
Making sure firefighters don’t have a false sense of security (with curtains) and are not put in compromised or unsafe situations in the first place. -DNR Statement
Wildfire survivor Don Andrews doesn’t agree with the DNR's opinion.
He said he had no idea that a record-breaking violent and deadly fire tornado was about to scorch a direct path towards him.
I think it’s crazy. You’d be ludicrous to even show up on a fire without curtains…What are your people worth? What are they worth? How easy is it going to be to replace them? It only takes one time to make you a believer.
-Don Andrews, survivor of the 2018 Carr Fire
Don Andrews, age 65, still fights wildfires as a bulldozer operator. But he wouldn't do it without fire curtains.
INFO SOURCE: KING 5 News
See How Firefighters Fight Fires Around the World
10 Tips To Prevent Wildfires