PROVO — Five hundred people a year lose their lives just to kitchen fires. A new device could reduce that number by shutting off power to the stove, thereby eliminating the threat.
Nationwide, every three and a half minutes somebody leaves food cooking and unattended, said Peter Thorpe, a Provo City firefighter-paramedic. The department responds to that type of fire at least once or twice a week. Kitchen fires typically create a lot of smoke, and if things get too hot, flames can break out.
"We get there and there's no one home," he said. "The homeowner has left. Sometimes we'll get a call from a neighbor who says the neighbor's smoke alarms have been going on for hours, can you come check it out."
Last year, Thorpe developed a device for homes that he hopes will save lives and millions in property damage. He said there had to be a way to stop the fire before it starts. Stove fires will smoke for hours before actually igniting into flames, he said.
Thorpe contacted a long-time friend and engineer, Michael Sanders, to come up with a solution. After creating the first prototype, they teamed up with MBA student Rhett Weller to develop the Active Alarm, with the goal to get it in everyone's home.
"It's always listening," he said. "There's a microphone built in that's always listening for that unique cadence of a smoke alarm, and when it hears that, it says, that's a smoke alarm," and then it shuts off the power to the stove.
To use the device, someone just plugs the stove cord into the device, which then plugs into the wall outlet.
The invention earned them the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge earlier this year and a $40,000 grand prize.
Thorpe and his friends are ready to begin the manufacturing process. The initial goal is to raise $30,000 to get the first products out to the public. For information, see www.activefireprevention.com.