The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

Prevent Fires and Stay Safe During Harvest Season


August 29, 2018

Harvest season is upon us with some farmers already done for the season while others still have weeks to go. For those farmers who feel they are behind and are rushing to stay on schedule or get caught up, the rush to get the crops harvested can not come before safety of you, your land, your equipment and the fields near you.

According to the National Weather Service in Glasgow, the month of August has seen below-average dry conditions. For the past two seasons now, farmers have not had much relief in terms of Mother Nature cooperating with them and their crops. September’s outlook of precipitation doesn’t look promising, as the Climate Prediction Center does not have confidence to say whether the amount of rain expected to fall will be below or above-average. Not only does this dry weather hinder the growth of crops, but it also increases the likelihood of heavy machinery equipment starting on fire due to residue and dust accumulating. With below-average rainfalls, and windy days, when a fire starts, not only does the farmer lose out on the equipment, but the fire can also spread to nearby land and/or even wipe away the field.

Shelly Mills from the Montana State University Extension Office stated in a study provided to the Michigan Extension Office, there are nearly 9,000 combine fires in the U.S., of which the majority of those fires (41.3 percent to be exact) were caused by crop residue. In our current dry conditions, our community farmers have experienced their own fires with farmers residing in Valley County telling the Courier they have already had to extinguish and deal with the aftermath of a fire caused by their equipment.

Managing the crop residue and dust accumulating on any heavy machinery, including combines, is key to decreasing the risk of a fire starting and spreading in these dry conditions. Farmers need to remember the three P’s: Prevention, Preparation and Practicality.

In preventing the fire from starting, ensure your field equipment is clean. Power-wash to remove any grease, oil and crop residue that has accumulated. During harvest, blow dry chaff, leaves and other crop materials off the machine. Any materials that have been wrapped around bearings, belts or other moving parts, make sure to remove and clean off. When the day is done, don’t park the hot combine in the shed, the shop, or on dry grass, as smoldering hot spots may still be present which can catch the buildings or the grass on fire.

If a fire should occur, you need to make an action plan ahead of time and have steps in place to manage the fire while keeping yourself safe. Keep at least one fully-charge, 10-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher in the combine cab, and mount a second one outside so it can be reached from the ground level. Keep a water pump close by and have a cell phone on you at all times, to allow the ability to quickly call for help in the event a fire does start. Turn off the engine right away, grab the nearest fire extinguisher, grab your phone and get help. Stay a safe distance away while using the fire extinguisher.

Also, a farmer needs to be practical to ensure their safety and those around them. Approach the fire with caution, as with these dry conditions small fires can flare up quickly with the addition of air approaching the fire when the door or hatch is opened. If a fire begins to spread, try to contain it, but make your safety a priority.

Mills also stated the Nebraska Extension Office states that too often during harvest season, safe fueling practices are ignored as a way to save time. But those few seconds saved don’t matter when compared to the loss of farm equipment, loss of land or even loss of time spent in a hospital because of burns. Farmers need to remember to never refuel equipment with the engine running, and always allow hot engines to cool 15 minutes before refueling. If fuel spills on an engine, wipe away any excess and allow the fumes to dissipate before starting the engine.

In an ideal world, farmers would be able to harvest their crops based upon their own time frames with every circumstance, weather included, under their control. Unfortunately, sometimes Mother Nature has other plans, which can either speed up or slow down the process. All farmers can do is be prepared, have an action plan, and be safe. Do what you can to protect your family, yourself, your equipment, and investment from wildfires, as the popular saying goes “One Less Spark, Means One Less Wildfire.”


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