Wildland firefighter invents exterior sprinkler system
The sprinkler gets water to a house's rooftop and surrounding areas where it's needed most during wildfire emergencies
One problem firefighters face while battling an urban interface wildfire is having the manpower to protect homes from windblown embers.
Randy Cowling, president and CEO of WASP Manufacturing Ltd., got together with Darrell Pyke, a 15-year fire service veteran and technical director with the company, to create a sprinkler to help protect homes from the roof down.
We caught up with Randy Cowling to learn more about the product.
How did you come up with the name WASP?
WASP is an acronym for Wildfire Automated Sprinkler Protection systems. The name was originally used for our larger sprinkler trailers which were programmable for operations once deployed. We have since improved on these trailers where they are now not only programmable, but can be programmed and operated via satellite by any cell phone located anywhere on the planet. The name WASP just stuck.
What was the impetus for the invention?
There was a real need for firefighters to get water to roof tops without the time and risk associated with deploying ladders and attempting to secure a sprinkler on a roof. In addition, homeowners needed to be able to take some responsibility when it came to defending their property from wildfires.
How did your firefighting background help you come up with the design?
I’m not a firefighter, but our technical director, Darrell Pyke, is. He comes from a logging background, but has been employed by both the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia to fight wildfires for over 15 years.
His experience on the front lines, and his ability to create solutions to long-standing problems regarding traditional wildfire fighting techniques, make him a tremendous asset to our company. When designing a new product, Darrell first considers how to make it safer for firefighters. He also thinks about current wildfire firefighting techniques that can be improved upon.
Why is this product important for first responders?
It allows a firefighter to get water to the rooftop in about 30 seconds — securely, safely and without damage to the house. It takes longer to connect the hose to the gutter-mounted sprinkler than it does to deploy it. There is also a fence/fascia mount adaptor, which allows a firefighter to quickly attach a sprinkler to a high fence or fascia board on a home or structure without gutters.
What has been the response from first responders?
It has been overwhelming. We just released the sprinklers on the market and have already sold hundreds to fire departments and independent contractors in both British Columbia and Alberta simply by word of mouth. Most firefighters, when presented with the Gutter Mount Bracket for the first time respond with, 'Why didn’t I think of that?'
What is it made of?
The bracket itself is made of incredibly durable ABS plastic and designed to exact specifications to ensure a secure fit to most gutters. All the connections are standard garden hose thread. Although we supply the bracket with non-impact agricultural grade sprinkler heads, the bracket works just as well with impact style brass sprinkler heads up to 3/4 inches in diameter.
It was important to us that the design worked with sprinklers that many fire departments already had in their arsenal.
How much does it cost?
Each bracket comes with all connections, a fence/fascia bracket, standard pole adaptor and the Nelson sprinkler head. The cost is $79 and we offer discounts to fire departments and government agencies based on volume purchases.
The units can be deployed with any pole that comes with a standard ACME (broom handle) thread, but we like to recommend our standard aluminum pole, which extends from just under 4 feet to just under 16 feet in length.
The pole is a ribbed aluminum and very heavy duty. This makes it great for other uses as well. The pole sells for $59. The sprinkler head and pole come with a one year warranty and the bracket itself comes with a lifetime warranty from any factory defects.
How long has it been on the market?
We just launched the Gutter Mount Sprinkler System in August of this year.
How did you have the know-how, or inspiration to design/engineer this?
Aside from Darrel’s experience in the field and initial designs, we worked closely with our existing affiliate Imagination Machine Works as well as with the National Research Council of Canada, who provided engineering advice and design suggestions based on the initial concept.
Numerous iterations and designs were tested before we decided on the final concept, which met both operational and manufacturing guidelines suitable for sale of the sprinklers at a reasonable price for both firefighters and homeowners.
Anything new in development?
We’re entering into a new agreement with SkyWave Mobile Communications in order to bring remote operation of the Gutter Mount Sprinklers to both firefighters and home owners alike. We can do this now on sprinkler trailers equipped with our WASP in a Box satellite control system, but this new agreement with SkyWave will allow us access to their smaller and more affordable satellite terminals, suitable for homeowner use. We should have more to say on this project in the next 4 to 6 months.