Local firefighters create fire defense system to help homeowners during peak fire season

We’re in the peak of fire season and with so many fires burning in the state, resources are stretched thin. Two local veteran firefighters have created a system that can help homeowners protect their properties and families in an emergency.   

Fire Defense System connects a hose to a homeowner’s swimming pool to access the 30,000 gallons of water, the same amount of water as 60 fire engines, the homeowner can use to fight flames.  

“Unequivocally, that machine right there saved my home and these other six homes,” says Kirby Kotler, pointing to the system on the side of his pool. He used it during the Woolsey Fire in 2018 to save not only his home in 33000 block of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, but his neighbors’ homes as well. “It swept like a wave,” says Kotler. “This whole mountain range was on fire, every bit of it.” 

“Malibu is unique because it’s so geographically isolated,” says LAFD Firefighter Jim Prabhu. “There are only so many ways to get in and out so to get fire resources in here in a timely manner is incredibly, incredibly difficult.” Prabhu and his cousin, a retired Captain from Santa Clara City Fire Department, created the system. They had both responded to the Woolsey Fire.  

“We witnessed firsthand how stretched the resources were and how there weren’t enough fire engines to go around,” says Prabhu. “So many homes had a pool but no way of applying the water from the pool to protect the home or protect the surrounding structures.”  

To operate the machine, which they show you how to do, pump the system 15 times, turn on the fuel lever, close the choke, move the throttle to the middle and pull, just like a lawnmower. The hose can spray between 10 and 95 gallons per minute, depending on how far you turn the nozzle. And it’s the same equipment fire departments use, so when they respond, they can recognize it and can easily take over.   

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Prabhu says 80% of saving your home is done before the fire starts, like removing patio furniture cushions, trimming trees 10 feet away from your house, installing ember screens and keeping at least five feet around your home clear of debris or anything that could catch fire, so when the next big one comes, you’re ready. “The time to prepare for the emergency is not during the emergency,” says Prabhu.  

You can rent a Fire Defense System, including maintenance, starting at $175 a month.