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Ipswich invention which featured on Tomorrow's World is still going strong - 23 years on

PUBLISHED: 10:42 13 February 2020

Dave Melton, inventor of Firetrace  Picture: FIRETRACE

Dave Melton, inventor of Firetrace Picture: FIRETRACE

Firetrace

Firefighting equipment manufacturer founder Dave Melton recalls he still had hair when he fitted his first system in the 1990s - his invention boosted by a spot on hit BBC sciences programme Tomorrow's World.

Andy Laws, service manager at Firetrace Ltd  Picture: DARREN EMENYAndy Laws, service manager at Firetrace Ltd Picture: DARREN EMENY

Twenty-three years on, he is celebrating the installation of the 100,000th Firetrace Automatic Fire Suppression System, which detects and extinguishes blazes.

The family-owned company - which employs 41 people - manufactures the equipment in Ipswich, but installs and maintains its systems nationwide with a team of engineers. The 100,000th job was to reinstate a system which had expired its lifetime at Discovery Park, Sandwich, in Kent.

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The years have passed quickly, said Mr Melton, who invented Firetrace. The original concept of a standalone pneumatic machine which doesn't require electricity or external power is still intact - although it now includes more features.

"I don't believe it. Originally we started back in the 90s just fitting a few Firetrace systems to combine harvesters - it must have been a while ago because I still had hair," he recalled.

Andy Laws, service manager at Firetrace Ltd, right, with Grant Hutchison, fire safety officer at Discovery Park in Kent, and the 100,000th system  Picture: DARREN EMENYAndy Laws, service manager at Firetrace Ltd, right, with Grant Hutchison, fire safety officer at Discovery Park in Kent, and the 100,000th system Picture: DARREN EMENY

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"We then found they were also useful in electrical control panels and before we knew it customers were also asking us to protect CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines, dockside cranes and every other sort of machine you can think of. All of a sudden here we are up to system number 100,000."

The firm specialises in designing, manufacturing and installing fire suppression systems that go straight to the heart of the fire, using its patented pneumatic detection tubing to detect a fire in its early stage and suppress it before it becomes a larger.

The systems, which monitor the risk area constantly, were originally showcased on BBC's Tomorrow's World programme in 1990.

The firm says it has a number of documented success stories where the systems have detected and extinguished the fires with little or no damage to the equipment.

Most of its employees are in Ipswich, but it also has staff at Hadleigh, Stowmarket, Nottingham, Liverpool and Kettering.

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