When it comes to preventing combine fires, there are just two key points to remember: prevention and preparation.
• Keep the machine clean. Power-wash to remove caked-on grease, oil and crop residue. During harvest, frequently blow dry chaff, leaves and other crop materials off the machine. Remove any materials that have wrapped around bearings, belts and other moving parts. Be sure to check those pockets where wires or lights are housed and chaff accumulates.
• Eliminate heat sources. Exhaust systems surfaces, exposed electrical wiring and worn bearings, belts and chains can potentially generate enough heat to start dust and crop residue on fire. Check these areas daily and make repairs if there are problems.
• Don’t park a hot combine in the shed or shop. After a long day of harvesting, smoldering hot spots may be present in the combine. If those spots suddenly flare up, at least you won’t lose the building!
• Keep at least one fully-charged, 10-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher with an Underwriter’s Laboratory approval in the combine cab.
• Mount a second fire extinguisher on the outside of the machine that can be reached from ground level.
• Recharge partially discharged extinguishers.
• Have a cell phone.
• Have a plan. Turn off the engine, get the fire extinguisher and your phone. Get out and get help.
• Approach the fire with extreme caution. Small fires can flare up quickly with the addition of air (by opening doors or hatches).
• Stay a safe distance away.
• Know when to wait for help.
So as you harvest this year’s crop, take the right steps to prevent a combine fire, but be prepared just in case.
Reference: John Shutske, agricultural safety and health specialist, University of Minnesota Extension