Throwing Firefighters A `Liteline'

FIRE DEPARTMENTS CAN ENTER BURNING BUILDINGS with more confidence when they take along a LiteLine 360. This flexible plastic tube, made by Flexlite Inc. in Edison, N.J., contains a series of small, bright lights that illuminate smoky surroundings--and help firefighters retrace their steps to safety. How can lightbulbs cope with fire scenes? First, the polyvinyl chloride plastic sheath is waterproof and can withstand heat of 450F for up to 90 minutes. Second, the incandescent bulbs are so small that their filaments tolerate jostling--much as a tiny ant can survive a fall from great heights.

The Roselle (N.J.) fire department credits LiteLine with saving the lives of two of its people in a smoky conflagration at a paper warehouse last November. Since then, Flexlite President Paul R. Manley, a former Eastern Air Lines pilot, has started promoting the product abroad. In tests in Sweden, it was visible from a half-mile up in the air. It also helped divers see their way 50 feet underwater. Flexlite got a $150,000 order from Swedish fire departments in February. Price: $1,200 per 100 feet.

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