Approximately 2,400 homes were destroyed during last year’s Fort McMurray wildfires, devastating the community and leading to the evacuation of 88,000 people.
But according to Randy Cowling, the president of WASP Remote Sprinkler Protection, a wildfire containment company based in the Tri-Cities, the average property affected by the blaze was 2 km away from the main fire. Many started when hot embers flew long distances through the air, eventually landing on the roof of faraway homes and igniting the structure, he said.
“Even on a steel roof, they fall into the gutters and there are leaves and junk in there,” he said. “That lights up and the whole house starts to burn from the top down.”
Enter the WASP gutter-mounted sprinkler system.
The yellow plastic mountable nozzle can be easily set up on any home and is capable of soaking rooftops in fire-danger areas, Cowling said.
In fact, the product has become so popular, he is in the process of finishing a rush order of 2,200 units for fire departments battling blazes across British Columbia. With some help from the community, he has turned an office at Coquitlam Chrysler into an assembly line, where he has been busy putting the pieces of the product together and shipping them out across the province.
“All of our suppliers came together and did not charge any extra to get this done,” he said. “To create this many units in such a short time took an amazing effort.”
After years of experimenting with different bases and pieces, he eventually settled on a prototype he made out of wood. A few alterations later and the bright-yellow plastic sprinklers were ready for market, and can be easily clipped on to a home’s gutters.
Cowling said even the patent lawyer the company has been dealing with was impressed with the product.
“We went through 600 worldwide patents and he said, ‘You know, in 40 years of doing this, I have never seen an original idea,’” Cowling added. “Most patents are modifications. He couldn’t find anything like this.”
Today, the product is available in western Canada, California, South Africa and even Dubai, and WASP has sold more than 6,000 units since the product was launched last summer. The smaller sprinkler heads sell for $40 while the larger ones go for $45.
Most homes need two sprinklers to have full coverage, which means the 2,200 units heading to wildfire hot-spots like Williams Lake and 100 Mile House should be enough to protect at least 1,000 homes, Cowling said.
“Hopefully, all this effort may help to save some homes throughout B.C.,” he said.
Gary McKenna / Tri-City News, August 4, 2017 12:29 PM