This clip shows a 1963 field test on a survival tent prototype used to increase the rate of survival for firefighters trapped in a fire. Dr AR King, who participated in the field test, talks about the survival tent.
Summary by Poppy De Souza
In 1962 the CSIRO published A Preliminary Report on a Survival Tent for Rural Firefighters, based on the research done by its Division of Physical Chemistry. By 1963, when this film was made, the survival tent was in its third prototype and had undergone some minor changes including the shift from an upright cone-shaped tent to one in which a man could lie down.
The survival tent was inspired by the story of a man who lived through the Black Friday bushfires of 1939 by dropping a blanket over his head. The tent was made of aluminium foil and fibreglass cloth, and only recommended for use by trained firefighters in emergency situations such as when trapped in a bushfire. The survival tent seems to have disappeared into oblivion, but fire-protective clothing works on the same general principle of deflecting the intense heat radiation that causes fatal second and third degree burns.
This documentary made by the CSIRO Film Unit details research undertaken by the Division of Physical Chemistry in the area of safety aids to survival in a bushfire and the general behaviour of fire. It includes an address to camera by Dr AR King and shows field tests carried out on a survival tent prototype for firefighters.
Designed for screening to firefighters and forestry officers rather than the general public, this film gives a behind-the-scenes look at the work carried out by the Bushfire Research section of the CSIRO. It features Dr AR King, who has published widely on protecting firefighters against bushfires.
Initially the film was intended as an educational tool for volunteer and employed firefighters to demonstrate best practice when caught in a fire. Dr King’s on-camera address was part of an interview conducted for the film as originally scripted.
During production, the film’s scope broadened to include King’s research about developing a survival tent. The first prototype was developed in 1958 and was subsequently refined in 1959 and 1963. While still a prototype, the survival tent was included in the film to show firefighters and forestry officers the latest work of the Division of Physical Chemistry.
The film also outlines other safety methods, including guidelines for firefighters, based both on common sense and scientific research. Dr King participates in the field tests in the film, taking physical risks in the interests of science.
Research on Survival in Bushfires was shown to Australian fire and forestry staff and also to overseas firefighters at international conferences.
Notes by Poppy De Souza