Fire – ever-present risk in mulching operations

August 20, 2020

Unlike most engine compartment fires in traditional mobile yellow machines (which start due to mechanical failure of a hose or part carrying combustible fuel), fires in a self-propelled mulching machine tend to start from the accumulation of fine organic debris on hot surfaces inside the engine compartment.

The mulching process produces large quantities of organic fines which tend to accumulate on any surface in the engine compartment.

“Many of the fires in the self-propelled mulchers start with an ember forming from the accumulated fines on the exhaust manifold, which as it burns and reduces in size falls down through the gaps between the exhaust manifold and the engine block onto the carpet of fine material in the belly plate area. Here the ember ignites, and the fire rapidly spreads,” explains Jacques Engelbrecht, Operations Manager for Enviro-Mulch.

In view of the high fire risks associated with the mulching process, AHWI-Prinoth has partnered with Swedish company Fogmaker to provide the necessary fire detection and suppression technology. Customers have the option of having a new machine fitted with a Fogmaker fire suppression system in the AHWI-Prinoth factory in Germany.

However Enviromulch Director Horst Hellberg has opted to have the fire detection and suppression systems installed on their mulchers by Fogmaker South Africa, in line with their policy to support local business.

“Our partnership with Fogmaker South Africa and their total fire solution offering has proven reliable and mutually beneficial in our common goal towards preventing asset engine fires, as well as forestry fires,” commented Horst.

Proper maintenance and strict adherence to operational procedures is key to reducing fire risks in the mulching business. However due to the very nature of mulching it is impossible to prevent every fire, hence the importance of having a fire suppression system on board that detects the fire and suppresses.

In the last two years Enviro-Mulch has experienced three fires in their fleet of 11 mulchers. In two of the cases the fires were detected automatically by the Fogmaker fire detection system, and in the third incident the system was activated manually by the operator in the cab.

Fogmaker keeping the AHWI mulcher safe.

“One of the real benefits of the Fogmaker system is quick detection which minimises the fire damage within the engine compartment. The cost of fire damages is typically below
R50,000 and mainly involves replacing hydraulic hoses and harnesses and re-charging the FOGMAKER system,” said Jacques.

Fogmaker SA Operations Engineer, Karen Horak says that "Fogmaker is the first fire suppression system globally to achieve the SPCR 197 certification for its fire detection system for engine compartments of heavy vehicles. Also, in most cases insurance companies will reduce premiums and excesses for machines fitted with certified fire suppression systems."
Enviromulch is a mechanised silvicultural contractor based in Piet Retief, which operates a range of AHWI-Prinoth self-propelled mulchers performing de-stumping, site establishment and fire management operations.

The smaller mulcher, the AHWI RT200 is used extensively for under-canopy mulching, clearing combustible material and stumps and creating fire access routes on the interrow lines within timber compartments. The larger Raptor RT800 is used mainly for de-stumping large stumps and mulching post harvest brushwood to make way for mechanised re-establishment and silviculture activities. The Raptor 800 is very effective in fell to waste operations and to clear inaccessible land to create fire breaks.

Fogmaker South Africa is the appointed distributor of Fogmaker Fires Suppression systems for southern Africa.

AHWI-Prinoth mulchers are distributed in South Africa by Bergvest Equipment.

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