Our Story

Former jockey Michelle La Vars was paralysed from the waist down in a horse racing fall in 1992 and is now confined to a wheelchair. She values her independence and that was one of the reasons the invention of Bushfire Buddy came about.

Michelle was home alone at the property she shares with partner Jason Rehn on an extremely high risk bushfire day. Jason was out at a meeting when a fire started nearby in the Adelaide Hills and became uncontrollable. The fire burnt thousands of acres, putting homes and lives at risk. Michelle had been getting phone calls and text messages to put bushfire safety plans into action. She also noticed burnt leaves falling around the house.

Michelle became very worried as what to do as the fire roared into the next town near Lobethal. She had two large dogs and a cat to worry about, and was in no position to protect the house from ember attack in a wheelchair. Being unable to get onto the roof she couldn’t block the downpipes and fill the gutters with water to give the house it’s best chance to survive any flaming embers.

Luckily for Michelle and the great work of the Country Fire Service the fire was brought under control with no damage to the house. Jason made it home, and Michelle explained her idea for a gutter blocking device to him. Jason sketched Michelle’s idea onto paper, thus starting the process of inventing the Bushfire Buddy by Gutter Block.

The Bushfire Buddy project has been a passion for Michelle because she wants to not only assist disabled people, but the elderly and children too. Basically, anyone can now block the downpipes on their property in a matter of seconds, leaving precious time to execute their bushfire action plan.

Developed by Cornell Design

Product development for the Bushfire Buddy was completed by Cornell Design. Cornell Design’s mechanical and electrical designers worked with Jason to take his initial concept and develop it into a product that is simple, effective and can be produced at a cost that makes it affordable for Australian homeowners.

Cornell Design