Wix District Managers spend a great deal of time working on their own, servicing our customers and increasing sales. Occasionally we have a chance to collaborate with other departments in order to take advantage of a market opportunity or solve a problem for a customer. These team efforts are why we have a reputation for getting things done.
So, it was no surprise that when the Florida Division of Forestry had a dire need for a flame retardant filter, we were their first call. In early April, a lightning strike ignited a fire that had overtaken the West Mims (Okefenokee Swamp) region. As the blaze grew, Ron Worrell with the Division of Forestry called me to ask if there was any chance WIX could develop a fire-retardant version of the air filter used on their new John Deere 650K dozers. Every time the dozers were deployed into the scene, the risk of injury due to air filter ignition grew worse, simply due to the size of the fire.
It is important to note that WIX had not yet cataloged the standard air filter for this brand-new tractor. I collected as much information on the application as possible and called Susan Thompson to see what data she might have on this new application. After hitting some roadblocks, Susan enlisted the help of Andrew Wescott, who jumped right in.
During this time, we continued to receive daily fire updates from the Division of Forestry and the situation was getting worse by the hour. During my first phone conversation with Ron, the fire was about 90,000 acres. By the time we identified the filter, the fire had grown to 120,000 acres. Once the product team identified the filter, it was a flurry of activity. Engineering confirmed we had the materials necessary, change orders were written and manufacturing was scheduled. The first 49035FR WIX Filters were ready for production. By this time the West Mims Fire had grown to a mind numbing 150,000 acres and was only 12% contained.
From the first contact with Forestry on April 5th to the production of 208 flame-retardant 49035FR filters on May 9th, a little over 25 working days had elapsed. Two days after production, 100 of the filters were on their way to the Florida Division of Forestry’s Lake City office where they would be packed up and deployed to incident scenes all over the state.
There is always a sense of pride for a job well done. When you have a supporting cast that has the dedication and commitment of the people of WIX, it is a feeling I have often. I want to thank everyone involved in this time-critical situation. It is a privilege to work with the brave men and women of the Florida Forest Service, including on-site parts supply management during the massive Mallory Swamp Fire. Being in the midst of a 150,000-acre fire is one of the most hostile environments on earth, we at WIX can take great pride in providing quality products designed to withstand these incredible elements. We can proudly say that in addition to this flame-retardant air filter, many other WIX products – oil, fuel and hydraulic filters – are in operation on nearly all of the equipment on the scene of this wildfire.