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Napanee company’s product fights fire with food instead of chemicals

A pumper truck used by FireRein, a Napanee company, to demonstrate its firefighting product that uses natural ingredients instead of chemicals. Photo by Connor Robinson, QNet News

By Connor Robinson [1]

NAPANEE – A company from Napanee is making a big splash with a product that uses natural ingredients rather than harmful chemicals to extinguish blazes.

A few years ago, Quincy Emmons – a captain with the Stone Mills Fire Department – was researching firefighting sprays that claimed to be biodegradable, and discovered that many of them were not as environmentally friendly as advertised.

“What we learned after reading patents and getting more information about the products was that there were some harmful chemicals inside of them,” Emmons told QNet News this week.

He began looking into how to make a product that would be effective in fighting fires and also environmentally friendly. What he came up with is a product called Eco-Gel that is made of “canola oil, cornstarch and other ingredients commonly found in your kitchen pantry,” according to Valerie Watts-Dafoe, marketing co-ordinator for the company that Emmons subsequently co-founded to produce it commercially. The company, based in Napanee, is called FireRein [2].

For years, fire departments have been using foam to fight certain kinds of blazes, such as when wood, paper, cloth or flammable liquids are burning. The foams can contain polyfluoroalkyl [3], a chemical that can cause adverse effects on humans’ and animals’ immune systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. [4]

Emmons said his company’s Eco-Gel is not a traditional foam, but a gel that is mixed with water.

Eco-Gel is sold as a concentrate that is added to the water by an attachment to the fire engines pump. The Eco-Gel makes up 1-6% of the solution. Photo by Connor Robinson, QNet News

In many rural areas, water for fighting a fire is limited because there are few or no fire hydrants and the water has to be brought in by a tanker truck. Eco-Gel helps in such situations by clinging to surfaces and starving the fire of fuel without water having to be constantly applied.

Several local fire departments have adopted Eco-Gel, including Quinte West, Madoc Township, and the Township of Cavan Monaghan.

“Our product is the only firefighting water additive in the world that is certified 100 per cent bio-based. So it’s all plant-based materials. We don’t just use a certain ingredient to claim we have it in there; it’s actually what’s doing the firefighting,” Emmons said.

FireRein was recently featured in a story by CBC Ottawa [5] about its possible use to help combat wildfires.