Official acceptance took 5 years; partners say it was worth the wait

SANTA ROSA - The heat-triggered closing eave vents invented by two Santa Rosans have gained official acceptance from the California State Fire Marshall.

Thomas Carlson and Rod Marusic have waited five years for the official nod of approval. Theirs is now one of only two products recommended by the state for compliance with Chapter 7A code, which mandates that eave vents in fire severity zones be protected against blowing embers.

"It's a giant step forward for us," said Mr. Marusic. "We'll be listed on the Fire Marshall Web site, and approval from various county agencies will be easy to obtain. We're ready to ramp up production for customers who've been waiting for us to get this acceptance."

The FireGuard Vent features a simple damper - powered by magnets - that slams shut and locks when the solder on a fusible link melts at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The advantage of the FireGuard Vent over others is its ability to be used over and over, unless badly damaged. Built of galvanized metal with only one moving part, the fixture requires only the replacement of the fusible link, at a cost of about a dollar. The vents sell for $35 to $55, depending on size.

"They can and should be used in areas outside fire severity zones," said Mr. Marusic. "Even in cold climates, embers from a nearby burning building can enter eave, gable or crawl space vents and ignite."

He and his partner are having the vents manufactured at a Cotati machine shop.

Although their primary market is comprised of builders, architects and engineering firms, the housing slump has caused them to focus on retrofits.

"We originally intended to sell pretty much within California, but our market has expanded with this new acceptance. Other states are so likely to follow California's lead that we can now seek acceptance from fire marshals all over the U.S.," said Mr. Marusic.

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