Tips for Combine Fire Safety

Most farmers are well aware of the potential danger of combine fires, but it is always a good idea to review your procedures well ahead of harvest time, says John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University (NDSU) extension agent and agricultural machine systems specialist. He recommends that farmers implement the following six fire-prevention policies, no matter what crop they are harvesting.

#1. A Fire-Prevention Mentality

Slow down and don’t cut corners.

“Farming accidents most of the time occur because you get in a hurry,” Nowatzki says. “You’re trying to get done, you’re competing with the weather. That’s when mistakes happen.”

#2. Keep It Clean

The most important thing is to keep the engine clean. Use an air compressor or leaf blower to blow dust off, Nowatzki recommends.

There is no set rule for how often to clean off dust, some farmers do it every time they unload. Nowatzki advises at least daily.

“If it’s a fire that has started in the combine itself, it’s almost always because that dust has collected. They don’t clean it often enough,” Nowatzki says.

#3. Consider Harvest Conditions

The dryer and hotter it is the more likely to have a fire. Consider combining early in the morning when there is a little bit of dew on the crop.

“When you’ve got everything really dry that’s when you see the fires,” Nowatzki says.

#4. Prevent Field Fires Caused by Auxiliary Vehicles

A pickup truck’s exhaust system is close to the ground. If it’s hot and comes into contact with dry, combustible crop material a fire can easily ignite. Make sure to park on soil where there is no vegetation.

“Exhaust systems under vehicles are a big issue. On a combine or a tractor, you don’t have to worry about that,” Nowatzki says.

#5. Service Your Fire Extinguishers

When a fire does happen, make sure you’re prepared.

“Fires realistically don’t happen too often, make sure your fire extinguishers are updated yearly,” Nowatzki says.

#6. Call 911 First!

Farmers tend to think when a fire does get started, they can control it themselves. While that may end up being the case, better safe than sorry. “Call 911 first, before you do anything,” Nowatzki says.

For more information on harvest-time fire prevention, NDSU has a downloadable checklist for farmers on their website.

NDSU FIRE PREVENTION CHECKLIST

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