Fires during harvesting are a common risk. A fire can start either in the crops near the harvesting activity, or inside the harvesting machinery – often while it is being operated. Such fires can not only cause a great deal of physical damage but can also lead to a business interruption as sourcing replacement harvesters in the middle of the season can be time consuming and expensive.
Minimising your risk of harvest fire.
Share the following tips with your customers and help them reduce their risk.
Check the harvester front by inspecting under guarded areas, where dust and chaff build-up can go unnoticed. Pay attention to knife drive gearboxes and bearings as they can overheat.
Periodically degrease hydraulic motors as oil can attract dust and create a flammable mixture that is difficult to remove.
Perform regular blowdowns, with a blowdown every half hour or every field bin round in extreme conditions. Use a large air compressor for blowing down the machine, starting at the top. When cleaning the harvester, open the appropriate panels but leave the engine cover closed. When clean, repeat the process with the engine cover open to avoid blowing excess dust into the enclosure. With the top of the harvester blown down, work around the machine, opening all panels and blowing out.
Keep exhaust pipes and mufflers clean and free of chaff. When modifying exhaust pipes and mufflers, avoid creating additional entrapment points. If the engine fan is directed over the exhaust, ensure air flow is sufficient to keep it clean.
Use heat-resistant paints on exhaust manifolds and turbo chargers to create a more slippery surface, which will prevent dust from settling on hot parts and assist with cleaning from the engine fans.
Keep at least two fire extinguishers accessible on each of your harvesting machines. Familiarise all operators/employees with procedures for extinguisher use.
No overloading electrical circuits eg by replacing fuses with a higher than the original.
Postponing work in paddocks during high fire-risk periods, which typically see low humidity, high winds and vulnerable crop conditions.
Maintain two way radio or mobile phone communication with base and/or casher bin drivers.
CGU provides crop insurance against the risk of hail and fire. We also provide cover for equipment used throughout the harvesting process.
Make sure your farm property is adequately insured and contact your insurance advisor whenever you purchase new machinery or equipment to include it under your policy. This can help you get back up and running as quickly as possible and minimise the disruption to your business.
For further information on how to manage your fire risk, we recommend contacting your local fire authority. Note that restrictions on harvesting during a fire ban differ from state to state.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation publish a very useful back Pocket Guide to reducing Harvester Fire Risk and it is recommended that all farmers using a Harvester obtain a copy, click here
Every year, harvesting activity starts fires that damage property, crops and lives and with strong El Nino climatic conditions returning to Australia’s southern cropping region this year, there is an expectation that this may lead to increased Harvester fires.