CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- An exterior fire suppression system manufactured in Colorado is being credited with saving a home from the roaring flames of the Kincaid Fire in California.
Company officials aren't giving out the customer's name, citing confidentiality, but they say the homeowner called them to say the system worked.
"I just gave my wife thumbs up," said Michael Smith, Vice President and Technical Services Manager at waveGUARD Corporation, based in Castle Rock.
Smith said he and his boss had been keeping tabs on the Kincaid fire, knowing that their first California customer was in the fire zone. He said he was home when his cell phone started ringing; he glanced over and recognized the number.
"(The customer) isn't one to express a lot of emotion," he said. "He told me, 'I'm so thankful we had the waveGUARD system on our house, because it ran, operated and depleted all the water we had. It used up all the retardant and our home is safe.'"
WaveGUARD's President Randy Lang told Denver7 he conceived the system while helping rescue horses during a wildfire in the Franktown area several years ago.
"We were driving through the neighborhood, and I saw the husband on the roof with the water hose, while the wife was trying to round up animals. It was just mass chaos," he said.
Lang said he used his experience in the landscaping business, partnered with friend Ken DiPaolo, who has experience in the irrigation business, and with Smith, who has experience in the alarm system business, to create the waveGUARD system.
He said they worked for nearly six years to perfect the fully automated fire protection system, which detects flames, activates water pumps and injects fire retardant into the lines.
"Once the system comes on, it changes the ambient temperature dramatically around the house and the humidity level rises," he said.
Smith, the technical whiz behind the control system circuitry, said the key to the system is an infrared detector, made by a separate company.
He said it detects flames and heat, then sends a signal to the waveGUARD controller, which activates the pumps.
Smith said he was skeptical at first about whether the infrared detector would work, so he he tested it, aiming it at a windshield that was reflecting sunlight.
He then ignited a fire in a fire pit behind the pickup truck and the infrared detector triggered the alarm.
Smith said the concept of putting sprinkler heads on rooftops was first patented in the 1960s.
"The problem was no one ever automated the system," he said.
Smith said they visited with Hotshots and other wildfire experts to learn how wildfires move under different circumstances.
"We picked their brains," he said, "and took all the information and translated it into a program for the controller."
Smith added that the fire retardant, Micro-Blaze Out, is non-toxic and biodegradable.
He stuck his finger inside a container to show the consistency.
"It's very much like dish soap," he said.
Lang said they've installed one system on a home in Boulder, but it's not active in the winter time.
He said they've also installed the system on five homes in California.
Smith said they recently purchased a trailer and outfitted it with tanks, chargers, solar equipment and the waveGUARD control system.
"It’s the thing that is the heart and soul of our system," he said.
The VP added that Cal Fire officials have asked for a demonstration, so they're taking the trailer to Napa County.
"This trailer will roll up with a pumping system, and we’ll have the fire truck fill up our water tanks with water, and we’ll be able to do a live demonstration as the fire department will set a wind row of hay on fire," he said. "We’ll be able to detect that fire and initiate the pumping sequences of our system."
It's an invention created in Colorado that could save more homes in California.