WithTheGrain: Proactive approach to fire prevention on YP

Author: | Date: 03 Oct 2018

Ben Wundersitz is employing the principles of planning, prevention and being proactive in his effort to reduce his risk of harvester fires.

He has made considerable investment in firefighting and prevention technology and recently installed weather stations on his property to assist in making informed harvesting decisions based on the Fire Danger Index (FDI) conditions.

Ben owns and manages Anna Binna on the central Yorke Peninsula in SA which comprises 6,000 hectares across nine properties in the region.

Anna Binna has been growing lentils for 25 years and Ben says there has been a lot of trial and error. However, they have been fortunate enough to avoid a major fire in that time, which Ben attributes to formulating a plan with his employees and adhering to it over harvest.

“Lentils are very profitable and an important part of our rotation,” Ben says.

“We have learnt to recognise the conditions in lentil harvesting when we need to increase our vigilance in terms of fire safety and we have procedures around cleaning down machines and monitoring fire danger to manage this risk.”

Ben says they have recently partnered with neighbours for the installation of four new weather stations across their properties to provide live monitoring of weather conditions during harvest.

“In times gone by you might have had a small handheld weather station, but this is the next level of technology which gives a higher level of compliance,” he says.

“Ultimately we want to abide by and protect the harvest code of practices.

“Now we have access to that technology, it’s easier for us to make informed decisions.”

Yorke Peninsula farmer Ben Wundersitz is conscious of fire safety in his operation and has a focus on prevention and staff education.
Yorke Peninsula farmer Ben Wundersitz is conscious of fire safety in his operation and has a focus on prevention and staff education.

Anna Binna harvesters have had their turbo manifolds and exhaust pipes covered with ceramic coating with high temperature stability. This keeps the temperature at just over 100 degrees Celsius, well below the ignition point of lentil dust.

All of the paddocks have a fire break sprayed around the edge and at the start of each new paddock, the Anna Binna headers do three laps around the edge, creating an area of about 50 metres with a low fuel load. They then harvest across the wind with reapt paddocks on the downwind side.

They run two chaser bin units, each fitted with 1,000 litres of water storage and pumps, as well as two of their own firefighting trucks.

A diesel-powered air compressor is mounted on the harvester comb trailers, which is used to blow off the headers as regularly as every hour in some lentil crops, with a focus on the engine bay.

Both headers have also been modified and fitted with shields over the engine, significantly increasing the airflow over the turbo and manifold. Fire knockout bombs are zip-tied around the engine bay, which explode with a white foam if they are ignited by fire. Headers are also fitted with water and powder fire extinguishers on the ladder and the engine platform.

Ben says there is also a focus on briefings with staff to make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

“It really is important to have a plan with your staff and actually chat about what it might look like if we have an incident,” he says.

“We have a plan that if there’s a large-scale incident, we would aim to get our machinery to the edge of the paddock where there is a better likelihood of it not getting burnt out.”

He says he employed this measure following the Pinery bushfire in 2015 where significant machinery losses occurred. Additionally, Ben says Anna Binna’s insurance is now being reviewed annually to protect the operation against being underinsured if there is ever a need to make a claim.

GRDC Project Code: 180824

More information

Ben Wundersitz, 0418 859 046, admin@annabinna.com.au, @AnnaBinnaFarm

GRDC Project code: 180824