Prevention is Key to Avoiding Harvest Fires
Extremely warm, dry and windy harvest conditions in 2011 were credited for the above-average number of combine and field fires we experienced last fall. Hot, dry conditions all summer long – plus the likelihood of warmer than normal temperatures at harvest time due to an early harvest – mean even more sparks could ignite during the 2012 harvest season.
Prevention is a key to avoid personal and property damage.
- Keep the machine clean, particularly around the engine and engine compartment. Use a high pressure washer or compressed air to remove caked-on oil, grease and crop residue.
- Check coolant and oil levels daily.
- Check the pressurized oil supply line to the turbocharger for wear areas that rub and may start an oil leak.
- Frequently blow leaves, chaff and plant material from the engine area with compressed air or a portable leaf blower. Remove plant materials wrapped on or near bearings, belts or other moving parts.
- Examine exhaust or hot bearing surfaces. Repair leaking fuel or oil hoses, fittings or metal lines immediately.
- Inspect and clean ledges or recessed areas near fuel tanks and lines.
Preparation is also key. Carry these items with you during harvest:
- Cell phone to call the fire department (911).
- Two ABC-type fire extinguishers: a smaller 10-pound unit in the cab and a larger 20-pound extinguisher at ground level on the combine.
- A shovel to throw dirt on small flames.
Since fires can start from plant materials that have smoldered unnoticed for 15 to 30 minutes or more, it just takes a gust of wind to literally blow it out of control. Hanna advises farmers to discuss a plan for emergency tillage in the event of a fire break, so harvest crews know what to do should the need arise. Remember, personal safety is more important than harvest loss.
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