GearGrid’s gift of storage equipment to Texas fire department featured on ABC show
Firefighters take pride in giving of themselves for the good of the community.
When the alarm sounded that a fire department was in need, a local company came swiftly to the rescue.
Millions of Americans saw the generosity of Forest Lake-based GearGrid last month, when a holiday reprisal of ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition chronicled the rebuilding of a Texas county that was devastated in 2011 by the state’s largest wildfire on record.
GearGrid donated $20,000 worth of equipment as the Home Makeover team rebuilt the area’s fire station.
“This was so deserving of it, frankly,” said Bob Foht, the director of sales and marketing for GearGrid who coordinated the gifting.
Answering the Call
Much of Bastrop County, Texas burned to the ground that September as the water system went down during the blaze. Two lives were lost and approximately 1,700 homes destroyed. Twenty of the 24 members of the Heart of the Pines Volunteer Fire Department were left without a home.
The popular ABC show took up the cause of building a home for two of the firefighters and reconstructing the damaged station. A design producer with family ties to the Twin Cities sought out GearGrid, which, among other product lines, manufactures fire equipment storage solutions.
The producer met with Foht at GearGrid headquarters, 670 SW 15th St., in October, 2011 and secured a donation of storage products for the fire department’s turnout gear, work benches with stainless steel countertops, hose and air cylinder racks and the like.
“He visited here and we got the details and I gave him carte blanche on ordering,” Foht said. “It was pretty much the entire range of our products.”
GearGrid’s line of fire-related products is rooted in the experience of Mike Boyer, a designer and co-owner of the 100-year-old company. Boyer was an assistant fire chief in Taylors Falls during the 1990s, when the department took it upon itself to build a new station.
“When it came to storage of the gear, they didn’t want to have the old wooden boxes they traditionally used,” Foht said.
Instead, Boyer designed storage systems using the steel and wire materials he worked with at his day job. He brought that concept to GearGrid and it has grown into the company’s largest product line, now attracting international orders.
Foht saw the Extreme Makeover request as an opportunity for GearGrid to give back to an industry that has been a blessing for the business.
“Fire service has been really good to this company, not just in Minnesota but across the country,” he said.
This feel-good story had one major speed bump, however. ABC cancelled Extreme Makeover Home Edition in late 2011.
“No sooner had we shipped [the donation], we found out the show had been cancelled,” Foht said.
Fortunately, the network tagged a few episodes for a special run during the 2012 holiday season. GearGrid learned last January that the Heart of the Pines episode would indeed be broadcast. It aired Dec. 3.
“They literally had to swear everyone to secrecy for over a year,” Foht said.