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Top 15 Tips for Preventing Combine Fires

Harvest season is approaching and with it comes the risk of fire on combines and other agricultural trucks. It is estimated that nearly 700 of these types of fires occur yearly and cause over 10 million dollars in property damage. This doesn’t even take into account lost time and downed crops or the expenses of injury or death.

Although it is not possible to completely prevent combine fires, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk and, if a fire does happen, to reduce the damage.

PREVENT

  • Keep your machine clean.  Power wash to remove residue, oil and grease.  Regularly blow accumulated chaff and debris off and remove anything that has wrapped around moving parts.  Check any areas where chaff can accumulate, like housing for lights or wires.
  • Keep wiring and fuses in good condition and ensure they are properly insulated.
  • Check lubricant levels and grease all fittings.
  • Inspect belts for wear and ensure correct tension to reduce friction.
  • Check bearings for excessive heat as they are a main cause of combine fires.
  • Ensure the exhaust system is free of leaks, damage or accumulated residue.
  • Regularly inspect fuel lines and check that all connections are tight.
  • Wipe up any fuel spills immediately.
  • Allow the engine to cool for at least 15 minutes before refueling. 

BE PREPARED

  • Always have two 10-lb ABC fire extinguishers on hand, both fully charged.  These will fight type A (crop residue), type B (fuel oil) and type C (electrical) fires.  Place one in the cab and mount the other in a location accessible from the ground for easy access if the cab is on fire.
  • Carry a fully charged cell phone.

FIGHT

  • If a fire occurs call 911 first, then take steps to put it out.
  • Drive away from crops or areas of debris that could ignite.
  • Turn off the engine before using the extinguisher so that the fan does not prevent the extinguisher from reaching the fire.
  • Once the fire is out, observe it closely for a period of time to ensure it does not reignite.  67% of combine fires are not fully extinguished and this could lead to a reflash.

The risk of fire extends to other agricultural trucks as well, such as liquid fertilizer tanks and agricultural tanks. It is vital to keep all machinery in good repair.  Be cautious of areas with tall vegetation or dry grass.  Manifolds and exhaust pipes can reach temperatures of 500°F to 1000°F which will easily ignite dry grass.  Catalytic converters can reach 1400°F to 1600°F at which greener vegetation will ignite.

Any vehicle with low ground clearance, including pickup trucks and cars is a particular hazard.

At Osco, we ensure that all of our agricultural trucks, fire apparatus, fuel trucks, water trucks and vacuum trucks meet the highest safety standards.    With prevention and preparation, you can ensure that your field practices do too.