Okanagan fire chiefs and forestry personnel gathered in Peachland on Thursday to check out a new tool that could help battle wildfires.
The Wildfire Automated Suppression and Protection Equipment, also known as WASP, is an automated wildfire suppression system. It was designed and built in West Kelowna and Peachland by a former firefighter.
After 16 years of battling wildfires in B.C. and Alberta, Darrell Pyke decided there was a need for a new type of firefighting equipment.
“I saw a need for equipment…to help free up ground crews,” Pyke said. Mounted on a trailer, the completely self-contained unit contains a diesel generator, powerful pumps, 3000 feet of hoses and 40 sprinklers.
“We can deploy it in the bush or anywhere. As long as [it] is hooked up to water, whether it’s a lake or a fire hydrant, we can start it from any cell phone or laptop on the planet,” Pyke said.
Grant Topham, Peachland Fire Chief, says the WASP can be set up ahead of time if there is a risk of wildfire.
“When the time comes, they can start it remotely. That’s the beauty of this machine. It’s so versatile that way,” Topham said.
Okanagan fire chiefs seemed impressed by the invention.
“I really like what I see. In West Kelowna, we’ve had several interface fires, some quicker than others. This gives a chance to set up the sprinkler system in an area threatened by wildfire,” said Wayne Schnitzler, West Kelowna Fire Chief.
When firefighters are pulled out of an area for safety reasons, the WASP can be left behind, where it can continue pumping water for up to 76 hours.
Former Kelowna Fire Chief Gerry Zimmermann says he would have loved to have some WASP units during the devastating Okanagan Mountain fire in 2003.
“It would have made a huge difference, especially on the first night when we lost 15 homes. The reason we lost them is we had to pull our crews out,” he said. “If we had a system like this, which we could have set up, I’m sure most of those houses would still be standing, if not all of them.”
The Alberta and B.C. governments are already taking a close look at the product.
“The potential market is huge. We estimate the market in North America alone is over 5,000 units,” said Randy Cowling of WASP Manufacturing.
Each unit costs about $150,000. The company says it will sell or lease the machines to municipalities, companies and various levels of government.
CHBC News, Kelowna : Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:28 PM
© Global News. A division of Shaw Media Inc., 2012.