Miscovich parlayed mining camp innovation into firefighting advance
|By Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch News, Anchorage|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
He invented a water cannon known as the "Intelligiant," which influenced the development of hydraulic gold mining, as well as firefighting and about 150 other applications, from riot control to tank cleaning and excavation.
Miscovich, who died
An operator had to hold the handle attached to the nozzle to keep it steady, fighting the law of motion that dictates for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Let go for an instant and there will be enormous pushback.
"The high water pressure in the old giant would make it take off like a bucking bronco if the handle was ever let go," Miscovich once wrote, applying Sir
"As a young boy mining in Flat, I would stand at the handle for 10 hours a day in the rain and cold, holding on for dear life and fighting mosquitoes, thinking there had to be a better way," he said.
Enter the "
"I designed it for miners, but it was firefighters who wanted it the most," he once told an interviewer.
Before he could put his ideas into action, however, he found himself in the Aleutians, serving in the
The idea was simple but revolutionary, incorporating a curved pipe and two ball-bearing swivel joints. The design neutralized the back pressure that could transform an unattended machine pumping thousands of gallons of water a minute into a gyrating beast. The technique developed by Miscovich helped keep the nozzle reaction to a minimum.
A mining industry publication ran an article on his invention, the first of many patents he earned, and mining companies began to pay attention.
Student of the 'University of Flat'
While the machine cost several times as much as the old models, which Miscovich called "cast-iron clunk," the value of the innovation triumphed over the financial pressure.
Queried about his background over the years, Miscovich, who had dropped out of high school in
He leased his patents and later sold some of them to companies that continued the innovation process, including the
"Breaking into the fire application was very difficult because all the manufacturers of fire equipment made their products out of brass, and the equipment was very heavy. I had switched over to stainless steel, which was a much lighter material and could withstand higher pressures," he said.
"The Intelligiant's unique two-bearing design could withstand much higher working pressure and helped develop a new era in fire equipment," he said.
Instead of 500 to 1,000 gallons a minute, the new device pumped up to 15,000 gallons a minute and found its way onto fireboats in
For 30 years he traveled the world as a consultant, sharing his expertise on applications for the Intelligiant. He said one of the greatest honors was a stamp printed in
"It is gratifying to see this product grow from a muck-moving machine on a small creek in
Throughout his life he kept going back to mine for gold at Flat, the ghost town where his father, an immigrant from
Miscovich is survived by Mary, his wife of 57 years, sons
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