Bill Gough conducting live-fire test with the Oval extinguisher. - Photo by Anton Riecher.

Bill Gough conducting live-fire test with the Oval extinguisher.

Photo by Anton Riecher.

Bill Gough installs and inspects fire extinguishers for a living in Bryan, TX. He ranks the Oval Brand Fire Products extinguisher as comparable to any other 10-pound ABC or dry chemical extinguisher on the market.

“I think it performs very well,” Gough said. “It performs like it’s a fast flow and fast flows are very expensive extinguishers that are not normal in everyday use. This one really gets out there a good 12 to 15 feet I’d say. It gives you an opportunity to put the fire out without getting so close to it.” For video of the test, check the IFW YouTube channel -- IFWfireworld.

The big difference between Oval and traditional fire extinguishers is the shape. Traditional extinguishers are cylindrical, measuring roughly five inches in diameter. The Oval design is flat, measuring from three to 3½-inches deep and 9 to 11 inches wide. 
Gough, owner of Shield Fire & Suppression, conducted live-fire tests with the Oval extinguisher at the home of Industrial Fire World publisher David White in College Station, TX.

“It’s going to be a huge space saver,” Gough said. “The problem that a lot of people have now with new construction is they don’t have the wall depth anymore for those six-inch recess cabinets. You could do a four-inch recess with these extinguishers easy and save a lot of money and time.”

Kevin Kozlowski, founder and president of Oval, describes his extinguishers as “low profile.” If they were technically an oval he would never have been able to trademark the name of his company.

“You can’t trademark descriptive names,” Kozlowski said. “For example, you couldn’t be the Wet Water Company or the Cube Shaped Box Company and be able to get a trademark.”

Despite the warnings of his trademark attorney, Kozlowski filed to become Oval Brand Fire Products. And, as expected, the trademark application was initially denied. Kozlowski responded by submitting the math equation for both an oval and a rounded rectangle.

“An oval has constantly changing radiuses as you go around,” he said. “An egg is an oval. Our fire extinguisher is actually a rounded rectangle.”

The patent & trademark office agreed and Kozlowski got the brand name he wanted.

“We have an engineering mindset,” he said. “We think like engineers.” 
Kozlowski traces the idea for the Oval extinguisher back to his days as a construction project manager for one of the biggest general contractors in the country.

“Over the span of my career I kept seeing the same problem,” he said. “The blueprints would say ‘flush cabinet’ with an arrow pointed at a standard depth wall. And a standard wall is framed with a 3 5/8-inch metal stud.”

Even a small five pound round extinguisher is too big to fit in that space, Kozlowski said.

“The usual response from the architect was go to a six-inch stud and make the walls deeper,” he said. “But in an urban project where every inch is precious that can really screw things up. The only alternative was a semi-recess cabinet which left the architects unhappy.”

Taking everything into consideration, a fire rated flush cabinet in a standard wall left no more than 3 inches for the extinguisher.

“That’s when the engineering process began,” Kozlowski said.

It took a few years of studying the industry, engineering and making prototypes to design a solution that could be readily manufactured However, he doubted if the issue was big enough to support bringing the product to market. Working 70-hour work weeks as a construction manager left little time to pursue the project further.

“One day, I stopped by one of those big box stores to pick up a few things,” Kozlowski said. “As I’m walking through the store it dawns on me that every fire extinguisher in the place was installed in a way that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the International Fire Code and even the local building codes.”

Specifically, the ADA sets standards for height of fire extinguisher installation and allowable protrusion from the wall.

“The rule for protruding objects under the ADA and American National Standards Institute standards is that if the bottom of anything mounted to a wall or column is higher than 27 inches, that object is not allowed to protrude more than four inches,” Kozlowski said. “The reason that’s in the codes is primarily for people who are blind or have low vision.”

The situation can be equally hazardous for those not covered by the ADA, he said.

“I would argue that more able bodied people with no health problems get hurt by fire extinguishers because they fall off the hook so much and land on our feet,” Kozlowski said. “A lot of $5,000 and $10,000 settlement checks get written for that, particularly in retail stores.”

He was now convinced that his product did have a market. Even though the Oval Brand extinguishers cost more than a traditional round extinguisher, his experience in building construction showed that a flat extinguisher meant an overall cost savings.

“In places like Chicago, real estate rents for $30 to $35 a foot,” Kozlowski said. “If you can keep the walls at standard depth, it nets out to a savings of around $500 per fire extinguisher location.”

Beside new construction, the Oval extinguisher can also be adapted for renovation projects.

“For the architects, it makes the building way easier to design,” Kozlowski said. “The building owners see the value too. We estimate that when walls are changed to 6 inch studs to allow a fire extinguisher to fit, it wasted at least 3 square feet of space.  If that building is costing you $150 a foot to build, you just pitched away $450.”

After conducting the tests at David White’s house, Gough said he was also impressed by the construction of the Oval extinguisher.

“This extinguisher has a very thick shell on it,” he said. “It’s a welded top and a welded bottom. The thick shell makes it hard to nick or dent. It’s going to be very cost effective compared to standard round extinguishers that have a thin shell and a really thin coating of paint.

Once the paint chips, rust is inevitable, Gough said. By comparison, the Oval extinguisher is all aluminum.

Kozlowski holds five patients for Oval products. The latest, granted January 31, is for a new stand pipe outlet valve or hose connection.

“Approximately nine out of ten of these valves in use today violate standards set by the International Fire Code, ADA and ANSI/ICC, again for sticking out too far. We figured out a way to make that valve less than four inches deep together with a surface mount.”

Kozlowski hopes to have the new valve on the market by the end of the year.