PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Six hotshot firefighters are safe after nearly being overcome with flames in the Cedar Creek Fire. Members of the Navajo hotshot crew deployed their fire shelters Tuesday after they became trapped.
Fire investigators are on the scene in the White Mountains as they look into what happened at the fire. The firefighters are okay, and were able to walk away without serious injuries. Wildland firefighters carry the shelters to be used as a last resort when there's no other way out.
"When your escape routes have been compromised, and entrapment is imminent at that point, you have to make a decision whether to use your fire shelter," said Leo Vasquez.
The shelters keep with them are made of aluminum and silica, designed as a barrier between a firefighter and flames.
"It reflects 95% of the radiant heat, it actually gives firefighters a chance of survival," said Vasquez.
Wildland firefighters say the crew identifies a deployment area, preferably a dirt patch of mineral soil clear of trees and rocks. Within seconds, they're trained to completely enclose themselves in their shelters.
"At this point, you keep the fire to your feet, so you would come down, fall to your knees, and then all the way down," he said.
They take only the essentials inside with them, including their radio and water.
"Then at this point, you would make a call over the radio and notify your supervisors," said Vasquez.
Firefighters are trained to use the shelters with their faces to the ground, and to take shallow breaths.
"While you're in there, you try to dig out a small little hole in the ground there. There's cleaner oxygen in the ground, and we try to breath from there, it gets really, really hot," he said.
The investigation remains underway about what happened. All six firefighters were able to walk out of the area on their own once the fire cleared.