Harvest is well underway! I see combines, tractors, wagons, trucks almost everywhere! We’ve got our beans off and Stanley has the wheat and cover crops planted in that area. With a bit of luck, we’ll get the corn off this week. Of course, we’ve still got some work to do on the grain bin, but that, too, will happen!
With the rain we had the past week-plus, I’d like to think the chances of a field fire during harvest have been greatly diminished. However, we’ve got a bit of harvest yet to go, and there’s always that possibility.
Dry plant material and grain dust are highly combustible. Couple that with hot equipment or engine sparks (which are great ignition sources), a bit of wind, and we’ve got the perfect combination for fire. I’m sure that your local firefighters would agree with our Farm Safety Office: Being prepared to handle field fires is important for all workers and transport drivers.
Combines, tractors, grain trucks, and pick-ups should all be equipped with a trustworthy fire extinguisher as the first line of defense. Combines should really have two: an ABC 10-pound fire extinguisher in the cab and a larger 20-pound unit at the ground level. It’s recommended that tractors and trucks have a 5-pound (minimum) extinguisher available. Note: These extinguishers should be in EACH vehicle in the field. There’s nothin’ worse than watchin’ the combine go up in flames while you’re runnin’ to the end of the field to retrieve the fire extinguisher from the truck.
And, of course, if you follow those recommendations and have enough fire extinguishers in place, then you must also follow the maintenance recommendations: Check the pressure gauges periodically, making sure the needle remains in the “charged” zone. If a unit has been partially discharged, it needs to be fully recharged before using it again; even a slight discharge can cause the pressure to leak out. Even though the pressure needle may linger in the “charged” zone, there may not be adequate pressure to expel the contents.
Extinguishers need to be shaken a few times a year. By turning it upside down and shaking it several times, it helps to keep the powder free-flowing. Equipment vibrations are notorious for compacting the reactive ingredients of fire extinguishers, making them worthless when they are needed.
Extinguishers should also be inspected periodically by a fire professional. Your local fire department or insurance company can point you in the right direction for service companies. Some extinguishers are not designed to be refilled, or are just too old to be refilled. These units should be replaced when expired.
Of course, there are some other fire prevention practices to keep in mind: Keep machinery in good repair, apply grease to bearings and oil chains regularly to reduce friction, and perform maintenance checks at the end of the day to detect any hot smoldering areas that may break out into flames overnight. Keep your machinery clean and free from plant materials, especially around the wrap points. Wipe up any fuel or oil leaks to eliminate additional fuel sources and keep oily rags off equipment and out of the cab.
You can use an air compressor or leaf blower to remove crop residue and a pressure washer to remove built up oil or caked-on grease. It’s also important to take time to cool down the equipment each night and check for any hot spots. Let’s do what we can to have a safe harvest!
The writer can be reached at the OSU Extension office (937-498-7239) or by email at email@example.com.