Are You Taking the Necessary Steps to Prevent Combine Fires?

It is a typical day harvesting sunflowers and soybeans with the combine, and seemingly out of thin air, a fire starts in the engine. Underneath the sturdy machinery, reactive dust and debris collected. The buildup ignites, destroying the farm’s most valuable asset. Why does the resource responsible for harvesting have a low resistance to the plants it grabs? Learn more about why and what steps agricultural workers can take to increase risk against combine fires.


Supporting Manufacturing Advancement

Combines have combustive materials, but the machinery is not designed to handle the heat, so farmers must push combine manufacturers to create fire-safe components and fund research. Action involves inventing new technology and reimagining the old.


For example, chimney air intakes should work regardless of weather conditions to bring quality air in consistently. Debris has fewer nooks to accumulate in if the internal infrastructure is smoother. Everything from the belts, bearings and electrical systems must undergo intensive review. Materials like stainless steel promise fire-resistant compositions and temperature-regulating mechanisms comprise smart blueprints.


Routine Maintenance and Inspections

The off-season is the perfect time to inspect combine harvesters. First, check for exposed wires, worn-out bearings and other safety red flags. Does the hydraulic system leak? Is oil somewhere it should not be? Check fuel lines, engines and everything in between for cleanliness and defects. Electrical failures may cause more fire damage, but repairing outdated and faulty parts ensures cleanliness and safe future operations.


Replacing and upgrading parts is the default action, but cleaning is equally vital for reducing fire hazards. Use a shop vac, infrared thermometer, and compressed air to analyze and clear out the grain tank, bubble-up intake auger, sieves, the threshing area, and more.


A combine harvester inspection and cleaning should not happen without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and multiple non-expired fire extinguishers for all purposes and materials, including:


  • Hay, wood and other combustible objects
  • Flammable metals
  • Electrical fires
  • Gas, grease and other flammable liquids


Fuel Handling and Storage

Putting the wrong kind or low-quality fuel in the combine adds to its combustive potential. This also goes for additives like stabilizers. Make sure nothing is expired and oil-store refreshes occur. Handling fuel in suitable environments is required — it should be a location away from crops and animals, and have peripherals in place to prevent spillage.


Storing fuel correctly keeps it well-preserved and of good quality, and housing these essential liquids in the correct place verifies the farm and the combine are safer. The fluids should stay far away from anything else flammable or explosive. Cool, dry spots are the best, as too much direct sunlight causes volatility.


Fire Prevention Systems and Safety Equipment

Incredible equipment and advanced fire-prevention technology are out there to keep agriculture booming in the face of a 21% increase in combine fires. What systems provide the most value for farmers and ranchers, in addition to PPE and extinguishers?


Detection and suppression systems are the most holistic. Detection uses sensors and thermal imaging cameras to pinpoint fires as swiftly as possible so farmers can respond before they ignite. Suppression systems are specifically for combines to dispense foam and chemicals to stop the fire from overwhelming the machine, and they can activate driveline shear pins to prevent even more failures.


Many modern monitors integrate with the Internet of Things, which allows farmers to have visibility over the conditions of combine harvesters and detect problems that could cause fires before they arise. Systems could eliminate many financial losses and safety incidents associated with combine fires — an issue that costs as much as $20 million and causes up to 50 injuries annually.


Preparedness Training

Prevention measures are essential, but they are not foolproof. Everyone in agriculture should take preparedness training in case of a combine fire — it is the best time to create cohesive documentation for emergency plans and responsibility delegation. How to fight one when it sparks is as important as keeping them at bay. Training courses can cover these topics:


  • Proper PPE and safety equipment use
  • Emergency response
  • Staff and animal evacuation protocol
  • Local authority contacts
  • Water sources and access
  • What you should and should not try to take care of, such as fire containment
  • Insurance expectations


Eliminating Combine Harvester Fires

Education and cautiousness are the best ways to prevent combine harvester fires. Farmers should leverage as much technology as they can while questioning every irregularity. Machinery can be tedious and time-consuming to clean and repair, but until manufacturers continue innovating parts, it is not worth the risk to animals, crop yields or farm labor. Add these steps to to-do lists for increased productivity, wellness and environmental care.


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