KPU Alumni Helps Firefighters Battling Wildfires

Jaymes Williams designed a harness for firefighters
Kyrsten Downton, Contributor

A wildfire harness designed by Jaymes Williams, a KPU Design program graduate. (Flickr/Kwantlen Polytechnic University)

The wildfire season this summer has been one of the worst in B.C. history with over 1,000 wildfires. Dozens of those fires are still burning, requiring the presence of firefighters in highly dangerous locations.

To aid them in their battle, KPU alumnus Jaymes Williams is developing a safety harness that will help protect the firefighters as they help protect the province.

“I was reading the news a lot and they were talking about the occupational strains on firefighters battling these blazes,” says Williams. “I thought it was a contemporary issue to tackle and it was relevant. It was something I could connect with too because I spend a lot of time with outdoor recreational activities.”

Williams graduated from KPU’s Product Design program in the spring of 2016. The idea for the harness came to him in 2015, when he was researching the wildfire season and the affects it has on firefighters. The design ultimately became his thesis project, taking about eight months to complete.

To prepare his design, Williams did extensive research on firefighters, including speaking to the real men and women who battle the flames, which he says was one of the most fulfilling experiences he has ever had.

“Meeting [firefighters], you put a face to the person and a voice. It connects you with the project and gives you a sense of purpose,” he says. “It motivated me to devote my time to it. It made it worth something for me. I was doing it for them, not for myself.”

The design itself focuses entirely on the physical, psychological, and emotional needs of the firefighters. The harness, called the Modular Accessory Carrying Harness (M.A.C.H), has storage for carrying equipment, a radio device, and a hydration pack.

“Giving them the security to be confident and to know that they are going to be okay was really important,” says Williams. “Being able to tackle those three aspects is how I felt my harness could benefit the user and give them the support that they need.”

Williams feels he was able to design a successful product that is ready to be tested in real-life situations, although the harness is still in the prototype stage and needs user approvals.

“A lot of people are interested in what it is. I can only hope that some organization can help me move it forward,” he says. “That would just be an amazing opportunity to be able to help all these people who are putting their lives on the line for us.”

Williams also believes that more could be done to help prevent wildfires. He stresses that education and kindness is key to helping those who are either affected by or busy battling the flames.

“There are so many issues at hand. It is a very intricate system that I feel is overlooked a lot,” he says. “The more education that there is on wildfires, the more likely people will be able to understand what is going on. The opportunity to help people comes in so many different ways.”

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