Challenge: Respiratory Protection for Wildland Firefighter
University Partner: University of Colorado, Boulder
Student Team: Grant Juul, William McHugh, Lauren Strand, and Kevin Vandeveld
Faculty Advisor: Xiaoyun Ding
QL+ Program Manager: Scott Huyvaert
Wildland firefighting is a physically arduous occupation performed in extreme environmental conditions. These conditions include high temperatures, high concentrations of smoke and other pollutants, low humidity, and, often high altitudes. It is physically demanding work. As firefighting has evolved, so has firefighter protection.
Unfortunately, wildland firefighters generally have no protection for their lungs. If they wear anything, it is usually a handkerchief. As a respiratory protection filter, it is completely useless due to its inability to occlude the mouth and nose and the large size of the pores. They sometimes wear N95 paper masks which when properly fit, will filter 95% of particulates 5 microns or greater. These masks do nothing to prevent inhalation of fine micro-particulates and various aerosols, gases, and other airborne contaminants such as the cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The Challenge is to create a Wildland Firefighter Respiratory Protection Device that has a prefilter system that easy to change; it must be lightweight and must not impede movement; the batteries must be long-lasting and easy to change; it must be durable and able to withstand rough terrain and handling, and being dropped; it should have a hydration pack incorporated into the device to pre-hydrate the air after it is filtered but before it is inhaled; and, the filtered air must not increase in temperature before it is inhaled. Possible additions to the device may be a GPS locator, pulse oximetry, body temperature gauge, outside air temperature gauge, and a heart rate monitor.