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Fighting fire with ingenuity

Local volunteer firefighter Brian Nankervis launches a new invention

Brian Nankervis has seen some unfortunate devastation in his three decades as a volunteer firefighter in the city's east end. There have been times where precious minutes could have possibly saved a home from total destruction or prevented a loss of life, but due to lack of a nearby hydrant or fire pond, crews were unable to put out the flames in time.

So he decided to do something about it.

When fire breaks out where no hydrants are available, firefighters are forced to fill a portable pool. This can waste precious time and manpower. Nankervis' new invention 'Handy Hydrant' aims to be the solution.

"Having been a volunteer firefighter for almost 30 years, I have witnessed, firsthand, the frustration of the crew and others when there are no hydrants available, or it is difficult to access a water source. There had to be a better way to fight the fires of rural homes and in our forests. From this frustration and my passion, I went to work and created this product" said Nankervis.

Handy Hydrant is, in crude laymen's terms, a collapsible and flexible, yet durable tube-shaped bag capable of storing large amounts of water for fire suppression and other uses. 

Caps at each end provide connections for fire hoses, as well as openings for fast action purging from a tanker truck. The overall idea is to make fighting fires in challenging locations much more efficient. A tanker can empty itself into a Handy Hydrant, and return for refilling as soon as possible, while leaving crews at the scene plenty of water to begin fighting the fire.

In front of a large group of friends, family, colleagues, investors, and fellow businesspeople, Nankervis officially launched his revolutionary product at Northern College Thursday morning. 

Mayor Steve Black was also on hand to offer his congratulations.

"This is the spirit of what an entrepreneur is. Seeing something in your day-to-day life, that you think you can improve. In this case it also improves the safety of our communities across the country. I wish Brian the best of luck with this, I'm sure he's going to have success. Our volunteer firefighters are a tremendous asset to our community. This is a definite feel-good moment for the city of Timmins, to have one of our own step up and solve a problem that all firefighters working in rural areas experience" said Black.

The system also has practical uses in the commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors as well. Its flexible design allows it to fit securely into the back of a truck or trailer, allowing access to water in remote and rural areas. 

These portable tanks will come in 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000 gallon sizes. However, custom sizes can be ordered. Nankervis said the most common will be the 1000 gallon size.

Filling it upFirefighters fill up a prototype of Handy Hydrant outside of Northern College on Thursday. Andrew Autio for TimminsToday

"What's really nice about this product is you don't need a perfectly level setup. You could throw it in a treed area, a grassed-in area, we could throw it in a ditch. The nice part about it too is, if we run into some trouble and things aren't quite working out, we can simply grab the end of it as the water level goes down, and move it to where it needs to be" said Nankervis.

In April, he pitched the concept to investors 'Dragon's Den' style at an event hosted by the Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) and the Northern Ontario Angels. He was able to secure and investor as well as a partner to help finalize the product, and prepare the infrastructure for sales.

Nankervis had a lengthy list of agencies who played roles in getting Handy Hydrant off the ground - NEOnet, Timmins Economic Development Corporation, The Business Enterprise Centre, NOHFC, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, National Research Council, and the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

"Even though it was not perfect in the beginning, I knew it was going to work. I realized this tube was going to revolutionize the way we fight fires. I also believe that Handy Hydrant can be used to fight fires, and help communities worldwide" he said.

More information can be found at their website.