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Farmer-Enhanced Fire Buggy

After a 7,000-acre prairie fire took part of his parents’ northwest Kansas farm in 2012, Marvin May was determined not to let that kind of loss happen again.   

“I’ve got the fire scared, I think,” he laughs. “Ever since we built the fire buggy, we haven’t had a fire.” 

Other equipment is prepped, too. Between an assortment of tanks on trailers and pickups (including the fire buggy), there are 13,000 gallons of water ready to go at any given moment. 

Since the former Mertz sprayer will go up to 35 mph, “We bring it on wheat harvest, so it’s in every field where we cut wheat,” May says. 

Here are other planned enhancements:

  • The sprayer tank originally designed for foam marker will eventually contain fire-fighting foam (surfactant).
  • A swamp cooler that May bought for the roof will clean smoke out of the air. 
  • The Akron Brass Company fire monitor can be raised, lowered, and rotated 190°.
  • The former Mertz sprayer carries a 1,700-gallon tank.
  • Electric valves on the front are controlled with a joystick.
  • Throttle controls in the cab raise and lower the pressure.
  • Fire nozzles on each side have linear actuators for controlling their height. 

More about marvin may

Operation: Farming in northwest Kansas (including the acres his grandfather homesteaded), Marvin May, daughter Sarah Shaw, and son-in-law Brian Shaw grow wheat and corn. May has also tried sunflowers a few times. 

No-till: “We’ve been no-till since 1996. The Shelbourne wheat stripper we use is built in England. It strips the grain out of the wheat to leave virtually 100% of the straw standing. This is how we keep as much moisture in our soil as possible,” says May.   

Pilot: He is an airplane pilot as well as a helicopter pilot. 

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