9 Tips to Prevent a Fire During Harvest

Any time you expose dry, flammable material to hot mufflers, worn-out bearings and electrical wiring, there’s a risk of starting a fire where there shouldn’t be one.

Unfortunately, a combination of these elements results in combines and balers going up in smoke every fall.

With the busy harvest season getting underway or around the corner, now is the time to take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of human injury and costly equipment losses from fire.

Here’s a quick checklist for preventing unplanned field pyrotechnics:

  1. 20150804_fireextinguisherwheatHave working fire extinguishers mounted on equipment and ensure everyone knows how to use them. Ideally you should have one in the cab and one that is accessible from the ground. Alberta Agriculture recommends a 10 pound dry chemical, multi-purpose ABC extinguisher and a 2.5 gallon pressurized water extinguisher on combines.
  2. Ensure bearings and drives are lubricated and tension is set appropriately.
  3. Check exposed wiring and fuel/hydraulic lines for damage, wear and deterioration.
  4. Remove crop residue, dust, debris, dirt and excess lubricant around all heat sources regularly. Some crops, like canola and sunflowers, are “stickier” than others.
  5. Allow engine to cool before refueling.
  6. Walk around machinery and watch, listen and smell to make sure things are working properly.
  7. Carry a shovel along on equipment.
  8. Be careful when using low clearance vehicles in fields, as exhaust pipes and catalytic converters can ignite dry grass or stubble. Park on field edges or in places where they won’t ignite dry crop residue.
  9. Carry a cell phone or radio to report emergencies. Make sure to know directions to the field.

Here’s to a safe harvest season! Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section below.

References: SafeWork Manitoba’s “Stay Safe During Harvest“, Penn State Extension’s “Tips for Preventing Combine Fires


4 thoughts on “9 Tips to Prevent a Fire During Harvest

  1. Number 1 trick we have used when fighting fires is a leaf blower. Learned this from a fire fighter who also happens to be a farmer! They are light, fast and effective and keep working as long as you keep putting fuel in them…. Every farm should have one.

  2. As always Kevin, I enjoy reading your informative memos you share. Thank you
    An interesting article in our local newspaper this morning about the effect of wind turbines on water supply in the ground. The vibration deters water to another route. The response to a farmer’s inquiry was to use bottled water. He responded, do you have any idea how much bottled water I would have to store to water my livestock. One horse would drink 4 cases of bottled water a day.

    1. I wouldn’t feel ashamed. Combine fires happen to many of us. We had a bad one during pea harvest one year. I was on the second machine in the field and had to help get the oerator out of the engulfed machine before it was too late. Prevention is key but not a 100% guarantee given the harvest.

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