Meet Your Merchant: Fire season fuels idea for Washoe Valley business
In the back of Sandy Weise’s Dodge pickup is a 300-gallon tank filled with water, complete with a pump and a fire hose.
Weise, 67, calls it the “Fire Boss,” and he’s hoping homeowners at the start of the fire season will consider buying one of his personalized fire trucks.
The idea was conceived by Weise’s Washoe Valley-based company, Ponderosa Land and Livestock Company Inc., five years ago.
Most of the 39-year-old company’s business is clearing potential fuel for wildfires in heavily forested areas, especially near Lake Tahoe.
“This Fire Boss unit is a byproduct of our fuel reduction work because we’ve been providing our own fire protection,” Weise said. “When you’re cutting brush and it’s getting drier and drier you could hit a rock and cause a spark and you can actually start a fire.”
So for their own peace of mind (and to keep their insurance company happy) Weise developed the Fire Boss, but never thought to sell it until this year.
“Over the winter with the economy being the way it is we were trying to think of ways we could add to our existing business and maybe create a new area of income,” Weise said. “And I came upon that idea of building these units.”
They don’t like to call them firefighting units – people shouldn’t buy one to go battle wildfires, he said – instead they refer to them as fire suppression units for customers who want to protect their home and land.
Weise said the product is assembled with easy-to-find parts at most home repair stores. His company assembles them to a customer’s specifications, which includes mounting them on an all-terrain-vehicle or pickup truck.
An ATV unit can carry 25 gallons of water. Combined with a 1.5 horsepower, two-stroke pump, the unit sells for about $550.
He said the company has conducted demonstrations for homeowners, adding their goal is to sell some units to land management groups through the federal and state government.
“Essentially an owner, if he needs a valve or a fitting or almost anything, he can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s or almost any supply house and buy the product off the shelf and replace it very simply,” Weise said. “It’s comprised of very basic units, but it does the job.”
The company hasn’t sold a unit yet, but the start of fire season may mean an uptick in business.
“I think once fires start hitting … I think we’ll get more response,” he said.