Farm Safety - Fire! Probably no word generates more fear

That’s especially true in forage fields, where a spark can quickly wipe out a crop, as well as any equipment that may be in he field.

Field fires cause more the $30 million in equipment losses each year, not counting crop losses resulting from downtime and personal injury.

Not only is equipment part of the loss in a field fire, it can actually be the source of a fire.

Equipment is designed and engineered to protect against causing fires however, sparks from a faulty exhaust system as well as grease, oil or crop buildup around the engine can greatly increase the chance of a fire.

Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of farm equipment causing a fire in the field:

  • Keep equipment clean.  Keep machines free of dust, plant debris and trash.  Pay special attention to the engine and engine compartments, since about 75% of all equipment fires start in this area.
  • Pay close attention to your machine operator’s manual, and be sure to follow all instructions and schedules for lubrication and routine maintenance.  If you notice any leaking fuel or oil hoses, fittings or metal lines, replace or repair them immediately.
  • Make sure your exhaust system, including the manifold, muffler and turbocharger, are in good condition and free of leaks.  Equipment fires can be caused by several heat sources.  The most common is exhaust-system surfaces that contact any flammable material.
  • Inspect machines regularly for worn or damaged electrical components and wiring.  You should replace any worn or malfunctioning electrical components with parts from your dealer.  If your machine is blowing fuses or has a circuit that intermittently cuts out, find and repair the cause.  Arcing electrical wires generate extremely high temperatures. 
  • Clean up spilled fuel and oil.
  • Perform routine maintenance to keep machines and hay tools in top working condition and to reduce friction among moving components.  A badly worn bearing can glow red-hot.  Any rubber belt subjected to intense heat from a worn part can burst into flames.
  • Equip each tractor with a fully charged dry chemical fire extinguisher (10 lb. minimum) A pressurized wet extinguisher is best for windrowers and balers.

Be prepared despite your best intentions and good maintenance, a field fire can still occur.  Your best source of protection is to make sure every machine is equipped with two fire extinguishers, one mounted in the cab and one where it can be reached from the ground.

Check your extinguishers regularly, paying special attention to the pressure gauge.  To function effectively, the gauge must show adequate pressure to expel the powder inside.  Once an extinguisher has been even partially discharged, get it fully recharged before placing it back in service.  During even a brief discharge, the tiny dry chemical particles will create a small gap in the internal seal of the extinguisher valve.  This tiny opening will allow any remaining pressure to leak out in a few hours or days.

Keep a cell phone or two-way radio with you at all time so you can summon help quickly.  Have an abundant harvest season and be safe.