By Lisa McLean for AgInnovation Ontario
Firefighters commonly use petroleum-based foams and gels to get fires under control, but the lasting effects of those products – on soil, waterways and the firefighters themselves – has recently been called into question.
Now, a new competitor is on the market, and it’s proving as effective as traditional foams – made entirely from edible products, including Ontario corn.
Napanee-based company FireRein is the brainchild of veteran firefighter Quincy Emmons and Napanee entrepreneur Steven Montgomery. In spring 2018 the company announced a deal with U.S.-based technology holding company Ethonus to develop applications for Eco-Gel™ within the U.S. military.
“Eco-Gel is a proprietary water additive that is instantly transformed into a firefighting hydrogel when introduced into a water stream at the required concentrations,” says Rui Resendes, president and CEO of FireRein. “In fighting class A and B fires, Eco-Gel is proven to extinguish fires in half the time of traditional foams and gels.”
Class A fires involve solid materials like wood, paper or textiles and Class B fires are those with flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel or oils.
Resendes says the product behaves as water when it is sprayed, but resembles a thick slime when it lands. That means it has the ability to stick to any surface – including floors, walls and furniture. The product suppresses fire, and by coating surfaces, it prevents them from igniting or re-igniting.
“We’ve been able to achieve all of this with a material that is derived from food, that is safe enough to eat, that draws on raw materials that are grown in farmers’ fields across the country,” says Resendes.
Depending on the class of fire, Eco-Gel is introduced into a water stream at concentrations ranging from two to five per cent by volume. And, once a fire is extinguished, the residual gel can be easily washed away with water.
Resendes notes the company has seen success working with fire stations and industrial clients across Canada that are drawn by Eco-Gel’s environmental and human safety aspects of the technology. The product is the world’s first and only hydrogel of its kind, certified through the USDA’s BioPreferred Program and made from food grade material.
Eco-Gel is manufactured in Belleville Ontario. It can be applied with standard proportioning equipment.