Los Angeles Fire Chief Don Manning was mulling over how bans on fireworks dampened the Fourth of July spirits of his five grandchildren when he started thinking about fire-safe toys that could fill the void.
"I was wondering, boy, that would be nice rather than Grandpa saying 'no, no, no' to fireworks," he recalled.
One day, he mentioned his thoughts to Jerry Pressman, a former board member of the National Fire Academy and president of a Los Angeles firm that designs fire-protection systems. Pressman discussed the possibilities with Northridge businessman Jeff Rapport and, four months ago, Funnerworks Corp. was born in Pasadena.
This week, the firm began marketing its line of toys, including battery-operated sparklers, screaming balloon whistles and fire-retardant bubble mats that make big pops when jumped on because they are reinforced with nylon.
Intended as a Catalyst
The firm, which will cease selling the toys July 5, is intended strictly as a catalyst to encourage major toy companies to create similar products, Pressman said. The products will be sold only through charitable organizations and volunteer auxiliaries of fire departments.