NM couple fights fire with 'Fire Ants'

Updated: 08/25/2014 10:44 PM | Created: 08/25/2014 10:16 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A northern New Mexico couple could help revolutionize firefighter safety around the world.

Delbert and Annacita Crow recently started a small company, Apache Fire Industries, which produces waterproof and fireproof fire hose couplings outfitted with color-coded LED lights.

The devices, known collectively as a "Fire Ant," promise to guide a stranded firefighter out of a smoke-filled room.

"In total darkness, you can see it over 50 feet away.  In light smoke, you can see it over 30 feet away," Crow said.

He said even in the heaviest of smoke, the LED lights are visible up to six feet away.

Crow, who lives in Dulce, said he was a firefighter in Farmington and Dulce for more than 10 years.  He said he battled a fire about a year and a half ago that obscured the fire hose -- the firefighting tool that arguably marks a best route to safety.

"Two weeks later I kept thinking about it -- man, there's got to be a better way," he said.  "And I remember seeing one of these blue LED lights on a flashlight, on a firefighter's helmet, and that blue light stuck out because I could see it in the smoke."

Crow said the Fire Ant is activated when a firefighter drops the hose and begins to drag it toward a fire.

"It'll be right here beside him, he'll always know where it's at.  The captain will always see where he's at, too," he said.

There are three couplings in a Fire Ant kit -- either amber, green, or blue in color.  The different colors mark different 50-foot increments along a fire hose.  The blue-colored coupling is placed next to the nozzle.

Crow and his wife said they developed the technology with the help of a grant through the Sandia National Labs, along with about $110,000 of their own money -- largely their life savings.

He said the Fire Ant accounts for shortcomings seen with reflective arrows or reflective paint.

Crow said firefighters in Chicago and Sydney, Australia have begun to test the Fire Ant and like what it does.

Through a crowdfunding effort, the family hopes to raise $100,000 to continue production.

For now, they said a Fire Ant kit will cost about $600.  But once a distributor gets involved, they said they expect the price of the kit to jump to roughly $800.

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