Tractor Operator Radiant Heat Protection
Barry Marsden (bio)
The lack of protection from radiant heat for tractor operators in fire operations was of concern, and in 1988 the North Altona Fire Equipment Development Centre was directed to develop a prototype protection system.
A Cat D3B bulldozer was transferred to North Altona from the field and, after consideration, fitted with two heat shielding blinds, a wrap-around type and a drop-down version. The blinds were manufactured from canvas flame retardant fabric manufactured by Bradmill.
A second option was developed, and simultaneously installed, consisting of a water spray system with spray jets delivering 65 litres per minute installed around the inside of the ROPS canopy. Water was provided via a hydraulically driven water pump mounted to a 340 litre steel tank, attached to the rear of the dozer above the winch, providing the operator with visual access to the winch if required. As this was a trial development the 340 litre tank of water would last approximately 5 minutes in an emergency completely surrounding the operator area including the heat shielding blinds in a water spray curtain.
The systems were trialled in the Dandenongs, and the video below shows the trial. The system was not trialled in a wildfire situation and development did not proceed.