Date Posted:18 March 2021 

Do Woollen Fire Blankets still provide the best Burnover Protection?

Get yourself up to speed on the state-of-the-art bushfire blankets

Let’s assume for a moment that you have moved into a region identified as ‘high fire risk’ or sometimes are called on to work, or travel through such a region, and decide to research fire blankets for personal bushfire protection.  The purpose of such a blanket is to cover you and provide a final ‘line of defence’ against a bushfire, when there is simply no alternative but to seek shelter in the face of an oncoming bushfire.  After all, what is more important to you than your life and that of your companions?  After a quick Google search, you quickly discover that there is a plethora of variants available online, with a broad range of specifications (and prices).  How do you establish which is right for you? 

By researching a little further, you may learn that the common ‘cooking fire blanket’ – the white fibreglass blanket used for extinguishing small kitchen fires – is completely unsuitable for bushfire protection, and find that some public organisations recommend ‘woollen blankets’ for this application.  As is to be expected there are literally dozens of options out there - many advertised as ‘pure wool fire blanket’ or ‘woollen fire protection blanket’.  Therefore, you conclude that these blankets must be designed for personal protection in a bushfire – after all, everyone knows wool doesn’t burn, right?

Here’s a little more detail for the technically minded: wool, as a textile, has a naturally flame resistant composition.  This means that without fire-retardant treatment, it does not generally ignite easily, and under certain conditions it will not sustain fire (i.e. it may self-extinguish).  When it does burn, it does not melt like many synthetics – which is critical in a personal protection application. Wool also tends to form a ‘char’ upon exposure to flame, which provides an additional level of insulation.

When compared with the fire performance of nylon, polyester and some other synthetics, it makes sense that in the 1970’s and 80’s wool was strongly promoted as the textile of choice for personal fire protection. Whilst there were some new, higher performance synthetic fibres available, pricing was largely prohibitive, and many organisations elected to specify wool fire blankets as a simple way to avoid the inadvertent use of an unsuitable synthetic material which could burn, melt, drip and emit large amounts of toxic fumes.

So wool became the widely accepted medium for protective clothing and blankets in a ‘last resort’ burnover or fire entrapment event.  The challenge was that to achieve a reasonable level of protection, the woollen blanket needed to be quite thick – one of the ways wool provides an insulative effect is by trapped air.  For groups and individuals who required ‘mobile’ protection (i.e. they were travelling in high fire risk regions rather than living there) this forced a choice between a very bulky blanket which severely restricted movement in the vehicle cabin, or to compromise on the performance level  and carry a thinner wool fire blanket.

Whilst wool is naturally flame resistant and combustion results in less smoke and toxic off-gassing than many synthetics, it does still emit carbon monoxide when undergoing combustion.  Also, in recent times, new textiles have been developed and made commercially available which far outperform this natural fibre.  Some new textiles are also inherently fire retardant, eliminating the requirement for a chemical treatment which is subject to deterioration, and offer far greater overall protection from the three key types of heat transfer: radiant, convection and conduction.  Importantly, the performance vs. mass and performance vs. bulk ratio is much higher than wool and most wool-blends – studies have shown up to 300% greater protection is now available. In addition, some of these new textiles can be processed to offer very high tensile strength, with impressive tear resistance, yet are incredibly difficult to burn and do not sustain flame.

To summarise:

  1. Wool is very bulky, often causing logistical issues and can result in compromised performance simply due to stowage limitations.
  2. Whilst fire retardant, once ignited wool emits dense smoke and toxic off-gassing of carbon monoxide – a deadly odourless gas.
  3. Wool actually offers relatively low protection from heat compared to new textiles developed exclusively for this application.

Leading organisations specialising in personal fire protection for Wildland Fire Authorities have now developed personal protective fire blankets or ‘burnover blankets’ from some of these new fibres, which are not only cost-effective, they also open up a broad range of stowage possibilities due to the light-weight, compact nature.  This means individuals can carry them in cars, stow them in bushfire shelters, and generally keep them close to hand during the fire danger season.

You may be wondering; are there any of these non-woollen fire blankets available for purchase online? Yes! Visit www.thermaguard.com.au to view the Supertherm Lite™ Personal Protective Fire Blanket - trusted by our Firefighting Heroes, Frontline Health, Police and Emergency Staff, residents of high bushfire risk areas, and many others across Australia.

Thermaguard’s state-of-the-art bushfire blanket frequently undergoes severe tests by NATA-accredited laboratories; exceeds the relevant Australasian Fire & Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) ‘Personal Protective Blanket’ Performance Specifications, whilst also meeting relevant tests of the Personal Protective Clothing Australia & New Zealand Standards AS/NZS4824, AS/NZS4967 and the Antiviral & Antimicrobial International Standards AATCC TM100:2019, ASTM E2149 13a, AATCC 100-2012.

Not sure which blanket packaging you require?  Simply select 1 of our 3 Packaging Options, depending on your application. If you are planning to store the blanket in your vehicle, Thermaguard recommends you select one of the Compact Packaged options, as this packaging reduces the storage space by 300%!

 

 

Since the 1990’s, Thermaguard has been 100% focussed on personal bushfire protection, working with internationally respected experts and Australia’s leading rural firefighting authorities.  Thermaguard promotes a strong culture of innovation and invests heavily in Research and Development, constantly challenging the status quo and aims to ensure all Australians have access to the best possible personal protection in a bushfire.

If you’re Serious about Burnover Protection, call Thermaguard 1300 948 241.


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