Tinderbox Wildfire Shelter Kits

The rundown

Tinderbox Wildfire Shelter Kits are a Master of Architecture thesis project developed by Victoria McCartney. Tinderbox is a semi-permanent, affordable, modular, flat-pack transition shelter for individuals and families that have been evacuated and displaced from their homes as a result of Canadian wildfires.

Every year, thousands of evacuees end up in cramped community shelters, where they have no privacy, minimal sanitation facilities, minimal cooking facilities, and no control over their environment. These overwhelming situations can cause heightened stress, and can have a negative impact on mental health. Tinderbox aims to create comfortable accommodation that provides the user with all the necessary facilities and amenities that they may need during a natural disaster.

How does it work?

Tinderbox is a modular flat-pack shelter kit – you build it yourself! The kit consists of low-cost, easily sourced parts that are manufactured prior to a disaster, loaded onto a truck, and shipped to site once an evacuation notice is put in place. Once it arrives at site, it can be assembled in 1 day by 2 adults using minimal tools. Because the parts are modular, the shelter has the ability to shrink and expand to meet the needs of the user.

What makes it different?

A Tinderbox shelter is a home away from home. Each kit comes with a kitchenette, toilet and shower, an air filter, a power supply, and basic furniture. The shelters are distributed on a rental basis, making them easily accessible to most Canadian families. Tinderbox also meets building code requirements, meaning that it can be used all year long – even in Canada’s harsh winters. With a lifespan of 5 years, Tinderbox gives evacuees a stress-free solution to their post-disaster housing concerns.


Wildfires are the leading cause of Canadian evacuations, with thousands of people having to evacuate their homes every year. The length of a wildfire evacuation can vary in time, causing significant stress and concern for those affected. In the 2016 Fort McMurray fire in Alberta, over 90,000 residents had to be evacuated. Some of those evacuees had to wait 35 days before they could return to their home, and to make matters worse, many families no longer had a home that they could return to.

When an evacuation notice is initiated, hundreds of families have nowhere to go and are forced to evacuate to community shelters, which are often located in arenas and gymnasiums. Community shelters are capable of fitting hundreds of evacuees within one large open space – however, these buildings are often overcrowded, have minimal sanitation facilities, minimal cooking facilities, and offer no privacy for families who are suffering from the traumas of disaster. Psychological studies show that people who experience a natural disaster are at risk for developing PTSD and other stress related conditions, which can be very straining for family relationships.

By staying in a community shelter with limited amenities, people are at risk for experiencing high stress levels. Tinderbox helps to restore the independence that many people lose during a disaster by allowing the user to regain their personal space and get back into their family routine.


The Tinderbox shelter is aimed to cost $35,000 per base unit. All money raised will be used to construct a full scale, fully functioning Tinderbox by April 2018. The funds will strictly be used for material and research costs – all labor will be carried out directly by the student.


Tinderbox aims to change how Canada responds to mass evacuations, and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while residing in post-disaster accommodation. With great success, I am optimistic that in the future, Tinderbox shelter kits can become a marketable, consumer product that can be launched across the country to Canadian wildfire evacuees.


In tribute to Brantford "boss man" Ragan

I don't think anyone has ever actually called me "boss man"

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