A Nanaimo inventor has combined old technology to create a new way to battle brush fires.
Urban interface fires have destroyed hundreds of homes in B.C., the U.S., Australia and elsewhere. What’s needed to fight fast-moving wildfires is a simple, rapidly deployable device that can protect property and be left to operate on its own to free up firefighters and equipment.
Rod Szasz created the FireBozz, a water cannon based on a modified agricultural sprinkler that sprays large volumes of water to create a fire barrier hundreds of square metres in diameter.
Szasz worked in personnel development for the semiconductor, communications and pharmaceutical industries. It was his father who originally started tinkering with a prototype.
“Basically I was a highfalutin’ headhunter and I would establish operations for these companies in the Japanese and Asian markets,” Szasz said.
When Szasz returned to Canada to live full-time, he refined the overall design into a practical firefighting tool.
The FireBozz units can be deployed singly or arrayed to extend coverage areas by a single firefighter in a few minutes. They can be mounted on the ground, on rooftops or in a truck or trailers and can also spray fire retardant gel or foam.
Consultations with fire departments helped Szasz refine the design and Innovation Island’s Venture Acceleration Program helped with marketing.
“We’ve helped him with getting his corporate structure in place, taking on strategic partners, talking with customers – that whole kind of continuum that a startup needs to be doing,” said Paris Guadet, Innovation Island, executive director.
Szasz has the units built in Alberta and has about 30 sold in Alberta the Yukon and elsewhere. The municipality of Delta wants them to control bog fires and the Department of National Defence has also expressed interest.
Ladysmith Fire Department has two units.
So far Ladysmith hasn’t had to use them in an emergency, but has trained extensively with them and suggested modifications incorporated into the production units.
Ray Delcourt, Ladysmith Fire Chief said the FireBozz is highly versatile, can be left to operate on its own and is also good at penetrating the ground and foliage below thick forest canopy.
“It’s a great tool for us and a very cheap tool for use to have,” Delcourt said.