A new tool for fire breaks

Though he works full-time at the local municipality, he feels that farming is in his blood, says Mr. Jacques Smith, who runs a small scale sheep farm on a smallholding.

“A few years ago there was a huge fire that destroyed a lot of pasture. Those with small farms like me, are just as aware of the need to take preventative measures against runaway fires. But not everyone has a tractor and the tools they need to make fire breaks,” he says.

What he does have, is a bakkie, hands that aren’t afraid to work hard, and a lot of scrap metal. So Jacques made use of his welding machine and some of the scrap metal and started sawing and welding. The result was a small raking trailer or plough that he uses to create firebreaks and that serves two functions: it both loosens the grass and rakes it away, so that the area he needs to make a fire break on is left bare, with no material on it that can burn.

Trailer with teeth

The base of the trailer is a thick iron pipe of about 1,2 m in length, with a wall thickness of about 5 mm. Seven pins of thick, strong steel, spaced evenly from one another, are welded onto a piece of flatbar, which is then in turn welded onto the pipe. The purpose of the flatbar is to strengthen the device so the pins don’t pull out. The pins are 170 mm long and they are spaced about 170 mm from one another. They form the ‘teeth’ of the device and are responsible for loosening the earth.
Jacques then welded 50 mm x 6 mm pieces of angle iron, which are shorter than the pins, onto the flatbar between the pins to give the trailer its double function. As the pins loosen the earth and grass, the pieces of angle iron rake along the grass between the pins.

This is what the fire break trailer looks like.

Depth control

He also devised a plan to control the depth at which the teeth rake into the earth. For this he welded a piece of flatbar in an upright position onto either side of the pipe. On each of these upright pieces of flatbar, he welded another piece of flatbar in a horizontal position, the ends bent downwards. When the device is turned around, with the teeth resting on the ground, they penetrate only as deep as these depth controllers allow them to. In this case it is about 75 mm deep. The towbar is made of a hollow, square piece of iron of about 76 mm x 76 mm x 3 mm and the hitch that is attached to the vehicle can move from side to side to a degree. Jacques also attached an axle to the device so that he could mount wheels onto it in case it had to be dragged for far stretches or moved to another location. The wheels stay on the device, but when it’s in use, it gets turned around with the wheels in the air. The wheels also serve as pressure to drive the teeth into the earth. The thick pipe to which the teeth are attached, is filled with cement for extra weight. This tool is very efficient, says Jacques. And it only cost him R400 for the welding rods. For the rest, he had all the iron and other necessities lying around.

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