FDNY to Become First to Use Chicago Firefighter's Invention

The FDNY has purchased four HEROPipes, a device that can be used to attack high-rise fires from the exterior between floors.


Chicago Lt. Michael Wielgat was able to turn an idea into reality and earlier this month, the largest fire department in the country became the first to purchase the invention he began working on just over five years ago.

The FDNY has purchased four HEROPipes, a device that can be used to attack high-rise fires from the exterior between floors.

The units will be shipped in October, and Wielgat said he hopes the department has training initiated and in progress come November.

New York will be the first city to put the HEROPipe into operation and it's the culmination of a lot of hard work the 24-year veteran has put into the project.

He began working on the concept in 2004 following two big high-rise fires in Chicago; the Cook County Administration Building fire that killed six people in 2003 and the LaSalle Bank building fire in 2004.

"Those two fires in our city were perfect examples of why we needed an exterior tactical advantage at a high rise structures," Wielgat said.

After winning the Chicago Innovation Award for the invention in 2009, he had the opportunity to ring the bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York.

Ahead of his trip, Chicago fire officials helped set up a demonstration with the FDNY, and he said the relationship just grew from there.

During the FDNY testing, a truck and engine company that had never seen the device before was given a quick rundown and then sent to the training ground. Wielgat said that by the time they finishing getting it fully operational, it took them only three minutes and 40 seconds.

"That was without any training," he said. "They were very perceptive and impressed with what this system could do."

In 2011, Elkhart Brass obtained the rights to the HEROPipe and hired Wielgat as the product's director.

"They had been very supportive in providing different types of nozzles for testing over the years," he said. "The advantage of joining Elkhart was that they have a great engineering team, sales force and a great reputation for quality water distribution products."

Wielgat said that while the HEROPipe was close to being complete, Elkhart's engineering department was able to work out the final details to make it even easier to use.

The company unveiled the product that retails for an estimated $58,000 at FDIC in Indianapolis this past March.

The HEROPipe is made to operate between floors and is designed to be transportable and extends up to 15 feet in length.

The aluminum base weighs 85 pounds and includes wheels. The waterway with the monitor attached is 50 pounds.

"I think it's a piece of equipment that should be available in any city in the world that has high rises that are out of reach of their ground ladders," Wielgat said. "Being able to give firefighter the option for exterior attack at any level is an option that has never been available before."