James Peel from JTP Machinery described how you can use your tractor, even a small 25hp version, and some common attachments, to help prepare your property for the next bushfire.
The first thing to note is, if the fire has started, don’t get on the tractor, get yourself and your family members to somewhere safe.
Preparing to protect your house, sheds and any other assets is something you plan ahead of time and maintain periodically, just like clearing gutters and the other small things townies do to minimise their risk.
The most straightforward thing to do is create a firebreak. “The idea is to cultivate the ground, and get rid of any organic material in a strip around the asset,” says James.
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Using a box blade or grader blade with ripper tines behind the tractor, you want to do laps to create a strip of bare dirt at least 20m wide because “fire can’t burn dirt”.
However, since fire can jump trees and embers can travel far in high winds, planning the actual position of the firebreak should keep this danger in mind. The other benefit of a 20m wide firebreak is, in certain situations, it may provide emergency services an access route.
Another point James made was remembering to use the vehicle safely. You don’t want to be rushing around at the last minute, and forgetting that the vehicle should always be driven up and down slopes, never sideways across them.
Planning the route ahead of time also means you can remove any larger items like big branches or chunky rocks, and avoid damaging any infrastructure in the ground, although the firebreak doesn’t need to be very deep, only 50-100mm.
“Do a dry run first” says James, “so you can determine the safest way to approach the terrain” without being rushed. Going over it again and maintaining it through the bushfire season will then be quicker, easier and safer.
For the loose combustible material, you might use a front-end loader or grader attachment to move that to the other side of the firebreak line.
Employing a small tractor to take your preparedness a little further, you can also use it to set up a poly water tank on a high spot, feeding an ordinary poly tube buried in a shallow trench (created with a simple pipe lane ripper attachment).
“A 20,000L poly tank won’t melt when full, and you can also put a fire break around it,” says James. “You can then crack a valve and have a sprinkler that goes on your house or other assets.”
You deploy that option at the last moment before leaving, always remembering that preservation of life is the most important objective. Meanwhile your assets will also have the best chance of survival.