08/02/2007 at 07:00 AM EDT
Firefighter Gregg Chavez made a burning dream come true Wednesday night when he pocketed a $1 million check after winning ABC's American Inventor
The California father-of-six won the top prize when the Guardian Angel fire suppressor he has spent more than a decade developing beat a backless brassiere and a custom toy kit to triumph in the show's season finale.
First Alert president Tom Russo said he would work with Chavez to make his invention a household product.
Chavez was inspired to create his device after seeing a news report of a fatal Christmas tree fire. The image of the father carrying his lifeless child from their burning home energized him into 15 years of work to stop any repetition of the tragedy.
On the Web site
for the show, Chavez describes his invention as "a small, pressurized tank of water, disguised as a Christmas package, that is placed under the Christmas tree and attached to a small hose leading to the top of the tree where a fusible link is disguised as an angel. The heat from a fire pops the link and water suppresses the fire." There's also an alarm, which does not require batteries to operate.
"It's amazing," Chavez said, after his wife and children rushed the stage to congratulate him during the taping. "A year ago, I was sitting in a chair at the house and I was watching the show, and I told my wife, 'I am going to win next year.' And she said,' I know you are.' "
The Guardian Angel inventor and five other finalists had defeated thousands of contenders in national auditions. Chavez was one of three who advanced during the semifinal round that aired July 25.
Viewers made the final decision on the victor, calling and text messaging their votes to ABC in a two-hour window after the show.