Ballam: New Products Debuted at Firehouse Expo

The innovation of firefighters and fire service manufacturers never ceases to amaze me. If you’ve been in the fire service for a while, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all. You’d think there’s no way anyone can come up with new material and designs for turnout gear, or a brand new SCBA, or develop a brand new hand tool.

Yes, a hand tool.

You’d be wrong on all counts. In the afterglow of Firehouse Expo 2013, there’s a few new products that need to be mentioned having had their debut, or soft launch at the show in Baltimore.

There was a new apparatus from W.S. Darley that was on display for the first time too.

At the top of the “now-I’ve-seen-everything” list is a new and improved pike pole demolition device that has elements of a James Bond device built in. It's not really a pike pole, or a closet hook, but it closely resembles them -- in a hybrid, embellished way.

Called the Fire Falcon, the device is a multi-purpose demolition device with retractable talons designed by a veteran firefighter with 38 years’ experience.
The device has a penetrating point on its head, like an arrow, and then has three talons that can be deployed and retracted by the user to pull more material, like a ceiling, or any other drywall or material that needs to be removed quickly.

It also can work as an anchor device for rope escape. Deploying the talons into a wall or a ceiling, and then attaching a rope to an attachment on either end.  And, instead of a D-Handle on the end away from the point and talons, it has a prying tool for debris removal and forced entry.

The tool was developed by Captain Evers Trice, a 35-year veteran of the Montgomery County (Md.) Fire/Rescue Services. He enthusiastically represented his product at Firehouse Expo. He said he’s trying to make the D-handle on tools obsolete. They don’t do anything for firefighters, but a pry hook, with a hammer head can do a lot.

Many attendees quizzed “what’s that” at the sight of the device. He quickly regaled in all the product’s features including a carbon fiber handle made by Nupla Corporation, and the steel alloy, heat treated, black oxide metal components, complete with stainless steel springs, field replaceable components.

At just under $500, the tool is available in four, four and a half and five foot lengths.

For more information, visit

On another front, we all know the hassle of leaving your mask regulator hanging while in staging, or waiting to go in. Yeah, it’s supposed to be clipped somewhere, or hooked on your mask, tucked in a pocket, but most often it’s just dangling.

Avon Protection has that problem licked.

Avon’s new Deltair self-contained breathing apparatus was debuted at Firehouse Expo this year. Highlights of this new SCBA design include a tactical switch that allows firefighters to instantly switch from ambient air to cylinder air. That’s an interesting new concept that could save air and the hassle of having firefighters mess with a secondary regulator to get air flowing. Firefighters can leave there masks on at all times and turn the air on when they need it.

The new AVON SCBA also has one power source, a pack of six C-cell batteries that powers everything on the SCBA, according to the manufacturer.

The new AVON product has several tweaks to enhance ergonomics and changes to the mask to improve the field of vision.

Check out Avon’s web site at to learn more.

When it comes to structural firefighting turnout gear, we all know the big players in the game. There was a new name at Firehouse Expo looking to break into the market.

Called Ricochet, the Philadelphia based company has been around for more than 20 years, primarily making EMS and rescue gear, having made a name for its self in New Jersey and long island.

This year, the company moved into structural firefighting gear using all the same materials as the big guys, Nomex, Crosstech, Scotchlite PBI Performance Products and TenCate.

They do use one product that’s a little different than others, a fabric made by Nor-Fab called OMNI-Elite that the manufacturers claim has a unique twill weave that makes the external shell more comfortable and, more importantly, more flexible.

Ricochet says their gear is cut and sown for ‘maximum mobility” with anatomical patterning. Additionally, all the gear is made in a shop in Philadelphia means they can have quick turnaround times on any order. Price? The company says they’re comparable to the other companies in the business.

Check out for more information.

W.S. Darley finished a brand new initial attack pumper at the last minute, just in time to make it to Firehouse Expo. The Ford F-series based pumper featured a four-door cab and chassis and an impressive 1,500 gpm pump.

It amazes how manufacturers can get big water out of tiny trucks. It’s technology and innovation at its highest art form.

Darley’s pumper was so “fresh” off the line, the sales material had not caught up with it. We’ll have to wait for details on the apparatus. Keep an eye on to catch the latest on the new apparatus and all W.S. Darley news.

As I have said before, attending shows, especially Firehouse Expo and Firehouse World, is one of the best ways to learn about new products and services that can make a big difference in how you do your job daily.