Malibu resident develops new firefighting apparatus

Many Malibuites may remember Matt Haines from his courageous defense of properties during the Corral Fire of 2007. The blaze destroyed 49 homes but Haines, neighbors, and the help of a personal fire engine saved untold structures in their hillside neighborhood. 

Haines became a Dolphin Award winner for his efforts then recruited 10 local men to become call firefighters for Los Angeles County. Since then, as an on-call firefighter with Engine 271 in Corral Canyon, the 62-year-old has put in countless hours of training and firefighting in Malibu; save for a nominal stipend, the hard work is voluntary. 

Haines is a home builder with numerous projects in the area. For the past decade, he’s been adding an enhancement to his homes in an effort to help battle brushfires. It’s a device he developed called the “Hainy Hydrant” — another benevolent act in helping his community since he does not profit from his invention.

The Hainy Hydrant is equipment consisting of a riser, pipe, valve and hose that a plumber can install. It allows first responders easy access to a water source and hose that they otherwise may not have, especially if garden hoses and public hydrants are not easily accessible. The device increases standard water pressure to as high as 125 psi. 

“Nothing changes on your house,” Haines said. “We’re just tapping into the higher pressure from your meter before it gets to the house.” 

It works like this: In an evacuation, a homeowner can pull out the equipment, including the hose, and then leave. When the fire department rolls up, they can easily access the hose and residential hydrant.

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Los Angeles County Fire Department Assistant Chief Drew Smith described the Hainy Hydrant as “a miniature fire hydrant” located on the resident’s side of the water meter. 

“We’re able to connect our smaller hose to that. It gives us options compared with hooking up to one of the fire hydrants. It doesn’t have a significant volume or pressure, but it does have significance if we can put it in use at the right time,” Smith said. “It’s an augmented component to the hydrant system that’s in place.” 

Haines, who fought the Woolsey Fire, explained the difficulty of finding a water source during the chaos of a blaze. 

“We’d pull up, but we couldn’t find a hose around or if we did, it was tangled up or didn’t have a nozzle,” Smith added.

The three-decade Malibu resident who has seen countless fires said there are about 40 Hainy Hydrants in Corral Canyon.

“Every third or fourth house, so we know [have] got equipment,” Smith said.

Since the cost to put a Hainy Hydrant together runs around $2,000, including installation, Haines suggests neighbors pitch in to buy, install and share them. 

This is not a commercial venture for Haines; “It’s another level of defense for homeowners,” he said.

Smith says his battalions have trained with Hainy Hydrants.

“We’ve done staff rides so we can identify them; they’re marked very well,” Smith said. “We know that it’s an option for us if we need them when we’re combating a wildland fire.” 

If water pressure is lost during a brushfire, that’s something the fire department cannot control. Smith said that depending on the situation with their equipment, they can tap into above-ground sources such as a swimming pool. 

“We’re diligent on how we get our water and we look for alternate sources. We look at every means possible,” Smith said. “We applaud the homeowners for taking on that challenge to support the wildfire endeavor for combating wildland fires and the property conservation and structured offense component of what we do.”

Commenting on the Hainy Hydrant, Smith said it’s a supplement to water availability in the area that the fire department appreciates. 

“We value the interaction with communities with supporting the firefighting mission for public safety, property protection and conservation for environmental values within the Santa Monica Mountains,” he said. “Because it’s such a pristine, beautiful place.”

Considering Hainy Hydrants are not simply purchased as a one-piece item, Haines says he’s willing to guide residents how to buy and install parts. 

He can be contacted at engine288@AOL.com for information on “another tiered level of defense for your home.”

Hainy Hydrant 2022 Information Guide. Photo courtesy.

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