An international businessman says fire-prevention materials he invented could have helped minimize the devastation from last week’s Mount Carmel fire.
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The flames near Haifa claimed the lives of 43 people and caused widespread damage to property and the environment, making it the deadliest fire in the state’s history.
Dr. Moshe Nahum, owner of DKL International, based in Aurora, Ontario, 20 km. north of Toronto, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday he offered the government, as far back as 1997, a product that would prevent fires and save lives.
The Yemen-born Nahum moved to Israel in 1941 at age five.
He lives most of the time in Israel, with the rest of the time divided between Toronto and Los Angeles. He is president of the International Federation for Yemenite Jewry.
Recognizing the dangers of inadequate fire-fighting equipment, Nahum, who moved back to Israel from overseas in 1965 and fought in the Six Day War, wanted to contribute something to the country. Working together with a scientist in Ontario, he developed a fire retardant that could withstand temperatures of up to 3,000º Fahrenheit (1,650º Celsius).
“My material has proved that it will not catch a flame. I proved it. I brought it to Israel and exhibited it to a range of companies; all were asking to buy it, but I didn’t want to sell it, I wanted to manufacture it and give it to the government,” he said.
Nahum wanted the government to use the product to protect the country.
“I wanted to protect the airplanes, ships and army tanks,” he said.
According to Nahum, although the government expressed interest in the product, it was reluctant to make a firm offer. Nahum needed a budget of between NIS 20 million and NIS 30m.
to be able to manufacture the product for 10 years.
Even when pressed by his partner in Canada to sell their product, Nahum was firm on his decision not to provide it to any other country. “I had offers from California, but six years ago I told Israel, ‘It won’t be long, within a short time you will start to see the violence and fires, our enemies are going to try to put our country in flames.
“They didn’t want to come forward and deliver on their promises” he said, adding that finally after eight years of negotiations with the government, he received a letter from the Jerusalembased Safety and Engineering company.
“They liked what I had to offer, but all they wanted was to buy it and make money, and I said no. I said I would donate it to the country but would not expose it.”
Shmulik Shalev, owner and general manager of Safety and Engineering that deals with the maintenance of firefighting by detecting systems in the field, was impressed with Nahum’s product.
“He gave me this material to check, and in my experience, in the world there is no material like this. We found this material better than the others – we tested it on paper and wood and saw that his material prevents fire much better than any of the others. There is something in this material that is better than anything we have ever used,” Shalev said.
Commissioned by the Fire and Rescue Service to manufacture equipment that would protect the country’s firefighters, Shalev saw the value in the product and wanted to use it. But, like Nahum, he struggled to convince the government and other organizations to buy into the product.
“We tried to contact a few organizations to see if we could secure funding.
We met the head of the fire department in the Galilee after the Second Lebanon War when a few forests were burned, and everyone realized that we had to do something to protect our environment.”
Nahum’s plan was ultimately to spray every tree trunk with his formula, thus preventing forests from being burned down in war.
Although Shalev supported this endeavor, he realized its shortfalls.
“The concept Moshe talked about is not easy to do, because it would
entail painting each tree and this is not an easy task.”
Shalev does admit that had they succeeded with this project, it would have “for sure prevented the fire in the North.”
The DKL fire retardant that today is manufactured in Ontario, is used in
hotels across Canada and has been successful in preventing fires and
ensuring the safety of guests.
Still, Nahum is disappointed with the government’s reluctance to buy into his product that he feels would have saved lives.
“Right now the country is very upset with their leaders.” Forty-three
“people lost their lives, a boy of 15 paid with his life, and for what?
We could have saved the lives of these people, the forest, the four
million trees and the animals if the government would have opened their
“This country is my life,” he said. “I would do anything to ensure the safety of its people.”