The man with fire in his blood talks 50 years in the industry
As 2018 draws to an end, one of the county’s most remarkable businessmen has reflected on 50 years in the industry – and at the age of 73, has no plans to slow down.
Norfolk-born Roger Carr, who launched his company selling and servicing fire extinguishers in 1968, has been credited as making “the most significant change to portable fire extinguishers since 1902,” thanks to his inventions.
Mr Carr created the world’s first composite plastic extinguisher in 2009, the P50, which is exported across the world and stationed in the likes of Heathrow Airport.
Now trading under the name Britannia Fire, Mr Carr’s company has expanded across 11 buildings on the Ashwellthorpe Industrial Estate, where its 40-strong workforce works on six 12 hour production shifts a week to keep up with demand.
Describing his journey to creating the market-disrupting product, Mr Carr said: “I came up with the idea of the P50 from seeing an advert for a Mercedes truck that didn’t need a major service for tens of thousands of miles. Then I read an article when I was on a plane about an airbus that had been constructed from composite.
“I was so struck by it that when I landed at Portugal on my way to a holiday, I diverted to Paris where there was a composite exhibition to investigate if it could be used for a fire extinguisher. I was there for three days.”
The product is a multilayer cylinder wrapped in Kevlar, with an outer body of high density polyethylene.
This allows it to be recyclable, with a 20-year life span – needing replenishing once a decade – corrosion-proof, multi-fire use and lightweight.
He said: “I didn’t tell anyone about the P50 when I bought the company. By the time I did, I had spent £500,000 of my own money.
“European standards said that all extinguishers must be made of metallic material. A composite extinguisher had never been made before and European standards said that all extinguishers must be made of metallic material. It was a gamble but it paid off - the European standards allowed it to be approved.”
The route to success:
• Roger Carr starts selling and servicing extinguishers in Norwich in 1968. Operating out of premises in Queen’s Road, U Kwench Fire Production, (as the business was then called), started to repair equipment in its workshop, painting some extinguishers yellow, nicknamed ‘yellow perils’ by staff.
• In 1970 the company splits into two divisions: offshore and land-based.
• In 1973, John Dyble joins the company as the new control for extinguishers, creating the seize and squeeze to replace the band-the-button and turn upside down mechanism.
• The seize and squeeze is launched in 1976.
• In 1980, the company moved to Mountergate, Norwich, and, re-branded as UK Fire International.
• Mr Carr’s next extinguisher was the Key Range, launched in 1983. Mr Carr achieved a patent on one of its main features, the balance valve, which controlled the flow of powder from the extinguisher.
• In 1985, Mr Carr went on holiday with a sketch pad working on designing a third range. In the spring of 1986, the Britannia range was launched, which is still made and sold all over the world today.