LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) – When flames break out, every second counts.  No one knows that more than firefighters — and in Montgomery County, they recently got a look at a new product that claims to prevent a blaze from spreading and aims to save lives.

FireComp looks a lot like plaster.

“You coat your walls, and it can be put on with a trowel.”

It also can be sprayed on.  That’s what Lower Merion deputy fire marshal Matt Maguire says they did in one test box, and tried to torch the place.

“The fire never got out of the room.  It contained the fire.”

While in another, untreated space — a charred mess.

“You see where it got through the walls, through the ceiling.”

Within 13 minutes, the drywall on the test cubicle failed and burned through the floor. Fireifghters here say scenes like this cost the lives of “thousands” of people and emergency responders across the country each year.

In the cubicle coated with FireComp, crews finally extinguished the blaze; otherwise, it simply would have burned itself out. Some cinders and ash collected on the floor are the only evidence of flames; the test room remains in excellent condition.

To drive home the point, an engineer trowels on a thin coat of FireComp onto a paper towel, and for minutes blasts it with a 5,000-degree torch:

paper towel Lower Merion Firefighters Get First Look At Fire Containing Product

(Credit: Ian Bush)

Bush: “You could probably still use it to mop up a grape juice spill.”

“Yea — the paper towel is still intact.”

And isn’t even too hot to touch.

Extend that idea to new construction or an existing home, says Maguire, “It would keep the structure sound enough that we would be able to make entry, make rescues if people are trapped. It’s going to be contained, and that makes our job that much safer.”

Lower Merion Fire Chief Chaz McGarvey calls FireComp the “next best thing to sprinklers” — and says it would give his crews more time to save lives, “Hopefully our building officials and legislators will look at this.  This can be put into the bottom of trusses and into lightweight construction.  That will help protect firefighters and families.”

Now, the local group behind FireComp is looking for a manufacturer in this area, says Conrad Heckmann with FireArmor55, “What we’re trying to do is save lives. Whether in an office building, dorm room, nursing home, your house — you want to save the people inside, and give the firemen the chance to get inside to do their work.”

FireComp costs about $1.50 a square foot — about equal to what sprinklers would cost — and is especially suggested for basements and kitchens, where most blazes begin.  Its maker says it’s friendly to the environment, to those who live in buildings coated with the product — and to those who are fighting the flames in structures it’s applied to protect.

To learn more about FireComp, visit FireArmor55inc.homestead.com

Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio 1060

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