Minimize Farm Machinery Fire Risk

Dangerous and costly farm equipment fires can be avoided

Published on: Jun 1, 2012

With reports of equipment fires cropping up in dry, windy areas across the Midwest, the National Corn Growers Association reminds farmers to follow proper safety procedures that minimize the possibility of a farm machinery fire. Even if the weather has not been warm and dry, fuel sources such as leaves, stalks, husks, dust, oil and fuel come into constant contact with potential sources of ignition from farm equipment, like exhaust, bearings and electrical wiring.

“Equipment fires are not only dangerous but are often extremely costly for farmers,” said NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Dean Taylor. “During this busy season, a fire can halt work in an instant causing property damage and consuming valuable time.  Building risk management practices into your schedule could end up saving both time and money.”

First, keep farm equipment clean, particularly the engine compartment, as 75%of all machinery fires start there. Cleaning the engine thoroughly will allow it to run cooler, operate more efficiently and will greatly reduce the risk of a fire.

Once the equipment has been cleaned, make sure to keep it clean.  Frequently blow dry chaff, leaves or other material off of the machine with compressed air or a portable leaf blower.  Then, remove wrapped plant materials on or near bearings, belts and any other moving parts.

Also check engine fluid levels daily, particularly coolant and oil levels, and look for any possible leaking fuel or oil hoses, fittings or metal lines.  Often, well-worn areas such as the pressurized oil supply line may breach, causing an oil leak.

Next, eliminate heat sources that could increase fire risk.  Most commonly, exhaust system surfaces containing flammable material ignite fires in this fashion.  To minimize this risk, ensure the exhaust system, including the manifold, muffler and turbocharger, is in good condition and free of leaks. 

Scan for signs of wiring damage or deterioration daily and replace any worn or malfunctioning components. Frequently blowing fuses or intermittent circuit disruptions often signal a short or loose connection.

Much like damaged wiring, worn bearings can also reach extremely high temperatures that can cause any rubber belt coming into contact with this intense heat to ignite. 

Despite the most vigilant care, farm equipment fires can still occur.  It is essential that each machine carries a working, fully charged fire extinguisher mounted in the cab and still within reach from the ground. 

Should a fire break out while you are operating a machine, shut off the engine, grab the extinguisher and immediately exit the vehicle. Then, signal appropriate authorities.

Fires can flare up dramatically if doors, hatches or other entry points are opened, so it is crucial to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle at all times.  Using the extinguisher, spray the base of any visible flames continuously to cool the fire until help arrives. 

For additional information about possible fire containment measures, please contact local fire safety officials.