Looming fire threatens business
On the May long weekend this year (2019), Kevin Younker received a distress call from the owner of a work camp near Manning in northern Alberta. A wildfire was encroaching on the multi-million-dollar structure located in a remote bush area outside the town.
“The camp was threatened by the fire. There was nobody else around to respond,” says Younker, president and CEO of Trident Pump, a recently launched pump business based in Athabasca about 470 kilometres away.
Setting out on the road right away, Younker and two employees were on the site within hours to set up a high-pressure transportable pump he developed.
“The camp was surrounded by forest fires. But we were able to stretch out a hose line to the nearest water source two and half kilometres (8,200 feet) away. Within three hours, we had the lay-flat hose strung out and water flowing. Pumping water for two weeks, we were able to save the structure,” Younker says.
Innovation performs admirably
Thanks to performances of this kind, Younker’s water pump is attracting increasing interest from forestry and firefighter officials.
This growing reputation is a dream come true for Younker, a welder by trade and the former owner of an oilfield services business. After seeing a forest fire devastate Slave Lake in 2011, Younker decided in 2013 there had to be a better way to deal with fires. Six years later, he’s developed a new type of pump, using a patented drive mechanism, that’s able to push water at greater distances and higher pressures than most conventional methods.
“Our pumps can perform as well as pumps that weigh over 8,000 lb., and because they’re so light and versatile, they can be transported anywhere,” Younker says of the pump that weighs between 500 to 600 lb., depending on options; delivers nearly 4,000 litres of water a minute at heights of more than 150 metres; and can be mounted on an all-terrain vehicle.
Support to grow Alberta innovation
Since then, he’s signed a three-year contract with the Alberta government to test his complete system and respond to fires. Now he intends to grow his six-man company, offering fee-for-service pumping to firefighting organizations as well as manufacturing the system for sale to municipalities and corporations.
Helping his company in its journey has been the support of Alberta Innovates. Younker says he has relied on experts at Alberta Innovates—like technology development advisor Robert Landers—to help him gain new business contacts and identify new markets.
“He understands the different possible paths forward and has opened so many doors for us,” Younker says.
Recently Younker received a $100,000 grant from Alberta Innovates—funding he plans to put toward international patent work and other costs as he prepares to market his pump in Canada and worldwide.
“For a new Alberta company like ours trying to get ahead, Alberta Innovates has been just an invaluable resource.”