Mask up a fire hero, central Victorian businesses urged

Related coverage: Bendigo invention protects lungs

Editorial: Clever masks a practical way to give back

Central Victorian businesses are being urged to support a local CFA volunteer by sponsoring them to receive a life-saving respirator invented in Bendigo.

Mandurang inventor Mike Taylor has created the Fair Air mask, which protects firefighters from radiant heat and smoke inhalation.

The former volunteer firefighter said the reusable and flame-retardant mask made from alpaca fabric offered a comfortable fit and extremely high level of filtration.

Mr Taylor said he had been trying to get the masks rolled out to Victoria’s CFA brigades but official certification was only available for disposable filters.

He has now devised the idea of getting brigades funded for air masks by community sponsorship.

Bendigo company Keech Castings has bought masks for Strathfieldsaye brigade members.

Keech Castings chief executive Herbert Hermens learned about the Fair Air mask at the Bendigo Inventor Awards, where Mr Taylor won the $10,000 innovator prize in 2011. Mr Hermens said the masks had great benefits for central Victorian firefighters.

“To me it’s a terrific product and I am a little bit bemused there is not more encouragement from authorities to properly investigate this,” he said.

“When you see some of these fireys with all sorts of contraptions on their face, if there is a better solution we should be trying it.

“Keech wants to make sure our fireys are safe as best as we can make them safe.”

Mr Hermens said the Bendigo manufacturer used the masks in its foundry.

“We found them to be very effective in the factory,” he said. “They provide very good protection and  are comfortable for the operators to wear.

“I was aware that a number of brigades had shown interest, so when Mike suggested we sponsor one, the directors were very enthusiastic.”

Mr Hermens encouraged businesses to get involved.

“We’re all cursed with cost but we have fireys out there doing an unbelievable job, especially at this time of year,” he said.

“If we can help them just a little bit, that’s wonderful.”

CFA District 2, which takes in the Bendigo, Mount Alexander, Central Goldfields and Macedon Ranges municipalities, has 75 brigades.

Mr Taylor said he was confident CFA brigades and businesses would get on board the campaign.

“They recognise what they have doesn’t work, the straps break on them and they’re $5 each for one use,” he said.

“Mine come with a spare filter, so have at least 20 uses at $60 each, so it’s much more cost effective.

“What I would expect is that other companies would sponsor their local brigade.

“Or maybe it’s something the Rotary or Lions clubs could get involved in.

“That gets away from the problem of fire agencies having a limited budget.”

Bendigo Advertiser calls to the CFA for comment on the Fair Air mask and potential sponsorship campaign were not returned yesterday.

*If your business is interested in sponsoring a local CFA volunteer call the Addy office on 5434 4472.

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