Region-made firefighting equipment used to battle California wildfires

Shown is the entrance to the Task Force Tips factory in Valparaiso.

Region-made firefighting equipment was used to help battle the devastating Camp Fire, the worst wildfire in California history and the deadliest in the United States in a century.

Valparaiso-based Task Force Tips makes nozzles, valves, monitors and other firefighting equipment used against the California wildfire that raged for 18 days, destroying thousands of structures and claiming at least 85 lives before being contained Sunday.

"Many of the fire departments in California use our products as a standard," Task Force Tips CEO Stewart McMillan said. "Just about every product we make is out there. We do not supply much of the equipment used by forest firefighters, but in the cases where city fire trucks get used, we are on those city trucks."

Owned by Chicago-based private investment firm Madison Industries, Task Force Tips has made firefighting equipment in Valparaiso since 1971, after its founder, Gary Fire Chief Clyde McMillan, jotted an idea for an automatic nozzle down on a napkin.

The company employs hundreds at its 168,000-square-foot headquarters at 3701 Innovation Way in Valparaiso, which includes a firefighting museum.

Task Force Tips makes a wide range of firefighting equipment that is used internationally, including some forest firefighting equipment.

"Most forest firefighting products are really, really cheap, purchased by the government on low bid," McMillan said.

Firefighting equipment on city trucks costs five times as much, but works better.

"It holds up fine as it is much more robust than the cheap forest fire stuff," McMillan said.

Before it was finally contained, the catastrophic Camp Fire destroyed the historic mining town of Paradise and raged across Northern California, consuming more than 153,000 acres and 19,000 buildings, including 13,954 homes. Search and rescue crews are now going through the rubble.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.