Necessity leads to invention: Handy Hydrant an easier alternative for fighting fires.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

In his nearly 30 years as a volunteer firefighter in Timmins, Brian Nankervis has seen his share of tragedy--fatalities that destroy families and burned-out buildings among the most devastating. In each case, the same problem popped up time and again: access to water.

Now, Nankervis has invented a tool that gives firefighters faster, easier access to water while on the job.

The Handy Hydrant is a sturdy but pliable accordion-like tube that holds up to 2,000 gallons of water, depending on the model. It can be transported into awkward spaces that traditional firetrucks may have difficulty traversing and handled with minimal manpower--two issues that continue to plague volunteer fire departments across North America, Nankervis said.

"There used to be five or 10 people standing at the door to be a volunteer firefighter," he said. "That doesn't happen anymore." When the outcome of a fire can be determined by a matter of seconds, setting up firefighting equipment has to happen quickly and efficiently. The sooner a crew can start putting out a fire, the better the result.

It was this niggling thought that kept Nankervis brainstorming, until one day it hit him: a dog agility tunnel could provide the answer. He purchased his own dog tunnel, made a few modifications, and filled it with a garden hose in his driveway to try and prove his theory.

"It wasn't perfect, but the concept was there," Nankervis said.

Four years later, his product has received the backing of an investor through the Northern Ontario Angels program, and his product is ready to hit the market.

It comes in four sizes--500,1,000,1,500 and 2,000 gallons--and can be easily hooked up to a pump and hose that then sprays out the water.

It's designed primarily for rural and remote areas that don't have municipal water hookup and source their water from lakes or streams. Rural neighbourhoods, First Nations, and cottage associations are among the communities Nankervis believes can benefit from his invention.

But its portability is also ideal for bush firefighters. Handy Hydrant weighs between 75 and 90 pounds and can be folded up into a backpack or hoisted onto the bed of a pickup truck.

Nankervis cautions the Handy Hydrant isn't fully replacing the equipment that's already out there, but can work in tandem with the pumper trucks and tanker trucks that take water from nearby lakes and streams before transferring it to the Handy Hydrant.

"It's just another tool that we can adapt to what we're using now," Nankervis...

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