Have a Plan in Case of Field Fires

Bone-dry fields with residue form powder keg.

Published on: Sep 20, 2010
Static electricity caused a spark from the combine in a field a few days ago. The farmer saw it. His helper saw it since he was near the end of the field. They both stomped on it and thought they had it out. Then they saw another small patch break out. So they stomped that out and were ready to go on. Then they turned around and saw flames spreading into the unharvested crop, leaping skyward. It was time to call 911. They rescued their equipment, themselves, and no buildings burned, but a sizable crop acreage of yet-to-harvest crop was lost. Tenderbox conditions and strong winds that day contributed to the severity of the fire.

"Have a fire extinguisher on board, and be sure it's up to date," a farmer wrote in yesterday. "It's so dry out there it only takes a spark.

"I had a bird's nest get on fire under my tractor hood last fall while working in the field, starting to plant corn. I was on the first round when I saw smoke coming from under the hood. Since I had a recently checked, fully pressurized fire extinguisher with me, I was able to put the fire out and continue going. Instead of losing a tractor I was able to get the field finished.

There are automatic fire extinguisher systems that act like sprinkler sonly with chemical base, ready to come on at preset heat levels to take care of potential fire situation within a combine. However, they are relatively expensive and take some time to install. Fire extinguishers, on the other hand, aren't that expensive. The only risk is that if you give yourself piece of mind by leaving a fire extinguisher in the cab, you may have false assurance unless you have it checked regularly. You also need to know how to operate it. Remember, if a fire start, you won't have time to do little more than react.

Also, there are different types of fire extinguishers for different classes of fires. What will work on an electrical fire and a grease fire may not be the same thing. If you don't have a fire extinguisher in the combine cab or if it came from the factory 20 years ago, you need to go shopping for an extinguisher. Tell them what you're using it for, and ask questions. Also make sure it's large enough o handle the intended use- in this case preventing residue or standing crop to burn.