Fires break out when three things are present: air, heat and something to burn. All three are found when using a combine, which is a crucial piece of machinery for farmers, especially during the fall harvest. The combination of dry conditions, strong winds and hot machinery leads to numerous fires for farmers each year. Unfortunately, combine fires are common and the potential for loss of equipment, crops or life is high. In order to reduce the number of combine fires, preventative maintenance and emergency planning must be included as part of the day-to-day farm operations.
New vs Old?
You might think that your brand new combine would be much more at risk than an older, poorly maintained piece of equipment. However, new combines run for longer days over more acreage, which puts them at a higher risk than an older combine doing less work. Mechanical failures are much more common on older combines, but newer machinery has larger volumes of oil and amounts of plastic components, which can fuel a fire.
Prevention is Key
You should begin every harvest with a clean machine. Constant maintenance and quick repairs are two keys to preventing combine fires. A pressure washer or compressed air can be great tools to clean your equipment thoroughly and remove any caked on grease and debris. Keeping a clean machine is just one aspect of preventing an accident from occurring. You should also remember to make sure your combine has time to cool down before putting it away. A hot machine and left over dust can easily ignite causing a major loss.
Here are several additional precautions you can take that can help keep your farm safe this year.
- Check engine fluid levels (such as coolant and oil)
- Repair leaking fuel or oil hoses immediately
- Keep an eye out for worn bearings, belts and chains
- Scan for any exposed electrical wiring or signs of deterioration
- Remove excess crop residue from the rotating units
- Always replace parts with the dealer approved items
Prepare for “It’ll Never Happen to Me”
Despite all of your best intentions, sometimes accidents happen. How we react during those incidents can determine the amount of loss sustained. Fires can start and spread while you working a field without you noticing so you should be constantly aware of your surroundings. Remember to approach any fire with caution, as even a small fire can turn dangerous quickly. If a fire does start, follow these steps to keep yourself safe.
- Turn off the engine and IMMEDIATELY CALL 911
- If safe to do so, attempt to extinguish the fire using PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep)
- Keep one fire extinguisher in the cab and one in a truck or other nearby vehicle
- Use water or a small shovel on small debris fires to stop the spread
- Follow your emergency plan (Don’t have one? Check out our guide here)
Not every fire can be easily extinguished and if it’s in a difficult to reach area or is spreading too quickly, it’s safest to wait for emergency services to arrive. Make sure you have a schedule to check the pressure of your fire extinguishers. Some local fire departments will provide this service. Trillium Mutual Insurance provides free fire extinguisher recharges to all of its farm policyholders. Please contact your broker for more information.