Inventor launches ember defence

WHEN bushfire hit Callala Bay last month, Gordon McKeown was able to protect a neighbour’s house through the simple act of turning on a hose.

The inventor of a home protection system called the Ember Defender, Mr McKeown had earlier installed his fire defence system at the house, so all that was left to do when fire broke out nearby was to turn on a tap and let sprinklers soak the roof and any leaves in the gutters.

While the home was protected, a home on the other side lost washing that caught fire when hit by burning embers.

A former plumber and Rural Fire Service volunteer, Mr McKeown developed the system many years ago as “a simple device” to help his elderly mother protect her home at Heathcote.

While the system would not save homes hit by a wall of flames, CSIRO research showed 90 per cent of all homes lost to bushfire were destroyed by embers hitting them.

“That’s where this thing does the job,” Mr McKeown said.

“You can turn it on and walk away, you don’t have to stay there.”

The invention was featured on the New Inventors television show in 2004, and in August was the subject of a segment on current affairs show Today Tonight.

However while many have praised the invention, getting support to manufacture the Ember Defender has proven more difficult.

While manufacturers have rejected the product, Mr McKeown has continued to see houses destroyed by embers in Canberra, several bushfires in NSW, and during Victoria’s devastating bushfires early last year.

“It’s frustrating when you know you’ve got something that can help, but you can’t get it out there,” the Callala Bay man said.

Now with the help of a nephew, who used to work for Bunnings, Mr McKeown is manufacturing the Ember Defenders himself in China, and has just heard Bunnings will stock his invention as of November.

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