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  • Writer's pictureRachel Stevens

Harvest Field Fire Prevention and Reaction

I don’t think I have to say this---but, you guys, we are dry. From September 1st to now, we’ve had a whopping total of .86 inches. TOTAL. If we are feeling generous enough to include the month of August then that brings our total to 1.43 inches. Yeesh.

This isn’t going to be a long post, because we are in the throes of harvest, and who has time for that…but we did want to talk about some tips we’ve collected to help prevent field fires. Our conditions are perfect for a fire. Dry, warm and all this wind isn’t helping either. Take a little extra precaution and save lives, crops, homes, and equipment.

Picture: SDSU Extension

1. Keep the combine clean. Yes, its an extra step. Yes, it’s dirty and gross. But blow the machine off every day. This includes the engine area as well as material wrapped near bearings and wheels. That is one less highly combustible source for any sparks to get in to. It’s a good idea to do this at the end of the day. If you try and clean off in the morning, dew may make it hard to get all the material off the combine. In fact, it is a good idea to stop mid-day and brush off what you can from the back end of the combine. If you have a battery powered leaf blower, this may come in handy.

2. Keep fire extinguishers in all equipment. On the combine, keep a smaller unit in the cab and a larger extinguisher mounted near ground level on the outside of the combine. A couple times a year, shake the fire extinguisher to make sure the powder hasn’t packed to the bottom from the combine vibrations.

3. Keep some tillage equipment or water truck hooked up and move it to each field. Yes, it’s one extra step when moving fields, but having it ready at the field can save valuable time. Keep a few shovels in equipment. Maybe one in the combine, grain cart and truck? Being able to shovel some soil on top of smaller fires can help contain.

4. Discuss a plan with your harvest crew. Who is moving equipment out of the way? Who is getting the tillage equipment? Who is trying to contain the fire? Who is calling 9-1-1? Does everyone know how to describe field locations? And all the available field drives? Do you have an easy way to communicate with the entire crew?

5. If you do have a fire start—call 911 FIRST. Then do what you can do contain the fire. A fire can double in size in less than 1 minute. Your life, and the life of your crew is much more important than any property.

6. Turn off the engine if you see fire coming from the combine and get out of the cab. If the fire is in the cab, use a fire extinguisher for 20-30 seconds. If you don’t have it contained at that point, get off the machine and get away from the combine.

7. Think through some logistics before starting to harvest a field. Which way is the wind blowing? Which way should equipment be staged to prevent any loss in case of a fire? Which way are you harvesting the field? Is the bulk of the unharvested crop upwind? Take a few minutes and think it through.

8. Don’t drive vehicles, like any pickup or car, through the field. The heat on the underside of the vehicle and proximity to the ground is a recipe for disaster. Park them on a field drive or grassy strip. And while this might be something you don’t think twice about, it’s a good idea to remind your harvest crew, some of who may not have the same level of experience as you.

I hope this blog post is for nothing. But please read it through, take these tips into consideration and be safe and prepared this harvest. And remember, your life is worth so much more than any crop, any field, any piece of equipment. Be safe.


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