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Firefighter’s BADAxx needs funding for production

Spokane firefighter Scott McCann holds a working prototype of his BADAxx, a 34-inch tempered aluminum tool he designed in his workshop over a period of two years. McCann is looking to Kickstarter to help fund the first version of the ax, which he believes will save firefighters' lives. (Dan Pelle)
Spokane firefighter Scott McCann holds a working prototype of his BADAxx, a 34-inch tempered aluminum tool he designed in his workshop over a period of two years. McCann is looking to Kickstarter to help fund the first version of the ax, which he believes will save firefighters' lives. (Dan Pelle)

Spokane firefighter Scott McCann worked in his personal shop for two years to create the BADAxx, designed as the life-saving Swiss Army knife of fire axes.

But he declines credit for the tool’s attention-grabbing name.

“Actually, my wife came up with that,” McCann said, with a short laugh.

The moniker for the 8-pound, tempered aluminum ax is actually an acronym, standing for Bailout Anchor Device. McCann came up with the idea for the ax in 2012 when the Spokane Fire Department received a grant to buy its ladder company members bailout kits, which allow firefighters to set an anchor on a structure or roof and rappel to safety. The 30-year veteran of the department said he wanted to blend the function of those kits with the classic functionality of the age-old fire ax.

“I incorporated that anchor notch, that little anchor notch behind the blade,” McCann said. “Nobody else has that.”

Karen McCann’s suggestion for a name was prompted by enthusiastic responses from firefighters at trade shows to her husband’s invention, who called it “bada—.” The family involvement with the project doesn’t end there, however: The couple’s daughter, Allie, shot promotional photos of the ax with her father in his firefighting gear. And one of their sons lent his plasma cutter to enable Scott McCann to create a metal prototype from his wood models.

The original ax was made entirely of steel, which made it too heavy to use in the field, McCann said. He is continually making changes to the ax’s design, incorporating suggestions from his colleagues that include a wider opening in the handle for a hydrant wrench. The Spokane Fire Department has signed off on allowing two of the axes to be used by McCann’s ladder company, to rave reviews.

“They love it,” McCann said of his co-workers.

Like many modern entrepreneurs, the McCanns are looking to crowdsource the cost of producing the first run of BADAxxes through Kickstarter. A bevy of perks are available to contributors to the project, including T-shirts, colorized handles and – for members of the public – a pledge to donate one of the axes to a local fire department for every six people who pitch in $50. The idea is to attract civic-minded donors to the project who want to ensure the lives of firefighters are protected.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which tracks statistics on firefighter deaths nationwide, 85 firefighters were killed from 2003 to 2012 because they were caught or trapped. Fifty-two of those deaths occurred in structure fires, two of them in Washington.

McCann said the BADAxx will save some of those lives, as firefighters continue to respond to more complex and faster-moving blazes.

“Fire growth is going so fast that guys are getting trapped,” he said. “And our gear’s getting better all the time, so we can actually be way farther in a structure, into a hazardous environment, than we ever used to be, and that environment’s changing a lot faster than it ever used to.”

If funded, McCann hopes to start rolling out the axes to fire departments starting in April.


 

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