Sound Ag Advice

Hot equipment and dry vegetation combined with late summer temperatures are the perfect conditions for a field fire. Angie Johnson, NDSU Extension farm and ranch safety coordinator, joins Sound Ag Advice to discuss how to prevent fires during harvest time.

What is Sound Ag Advice?

“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Angie Johnson, NDSU Extension Farm and Ranch Safety Coordinator

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature provided by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson, and I'm joined this week by Angie Johnson, our NDSU Extension farm and ranch safety coordinator. It's small grains harvest time here in North Dakota, many farmers are out in the field harvesting. And we know that towards the end of the summer, grasses, and those crops get dry. When you combine hot equipment with dry atmosphere. It's a recipe for disaster. So Angie, tell us a little bit about fire prevention around harvest time, what are some tips to reduce fires?

Angie: Absolutely. And so, one of the big pieces of information or practices that you can take forward is really doing preventative maintenance, check around all your equipment. And that includes your combine, your tractors that pull your grain carts, even your semis, your trucks, any piece of equipment that you're going to be having operating out in that field, take time to look it over, repair those leaks in the fuel system, and really make sure that you're looking for any damaged electrical wiring. A lot of times, combines will be sitting in the shed or in some type of shop over the spring and summer months. And so, what can happen is you can actually have mice come in and start chewing on some of the electrical components within your machine. Over time, one simple wire can cause some really big damage and even some sparking issues, especially with those hot dry conditions. One of the other key pieces to remember is to not park your trucks, and other vehicles in an area that has a lot of dried vegetation, such as the ditch on a roadside. And the reason why is that a lot of times that hot exhaust that's emitted from that equipment can start a fire right there in the ditch. And so just making sure to park in an area, such as finding a patch of bare ground, can be a really much safer place to park instead of in that ditch or grassy area.

Kelli: Angie, I know that keeping equipment clean also helps in fire prevention, what are your tips for cleaning equipment?

Angie: Oh, I can't stress enough taking some time to take an air compressor out to the field with you. A lot of our farm repair trucks, they carry portable air compressor units. And so, taking some time to really get that dirt, dust, chaff, or excess straw and really get it blown off your equipment because a lot of that can build up over time. And so, when we've got hot components such as a turbocharger or our engine on our combine, those can get so excessively hot. And if we have buildup of that chaff, material and dirt that can easily be a cause for a fire to start. And so, it doesn't have to be long. Maybe it's the end of every night or the beginning before you get started each day with the combine, just taking some time to blow off that excess debris.

Kelli: And finally, should the worst case scenario happen and a fire start, what should farmers or ranchers do to control that fire in the moment?
Angie: The first step would be to immediately call 9-1-1. We want to get emergency services such as your local fire district out to your location as soon as possible, because they're going to have equipment to help reduce that fire and get it stopped as quickly as possible. At that point, if it is a fire that is small enough for you to contain, utilize that fire extinguisher you're going to typically have one on the outside of the cab and also one that's on the inside of the cab of that combine. Before you start harvest, make sure that those fire extinguishers are fully charged and that they are ready for you to use in case of an emergency. Making sure some of those seals aren't tampered or broken. And making sure that fire extinguisher hasn't expired yet.

I will caution though, be very very careful if you are going to try and put out a fire yourself, especially if the fire requires you to open up some of those shields on the combine. What can happen when you start opening those shields is that you are exposing that fire to even more oxygen causing a very large burst of flame to appear. And that can cause some serious injuries. And so just take your time make sure to make really, really good decisions in terms of if you plan on putting this fire out, if it is a fire that is sizable enough for you to put out that you are being as safe as possible and not going to cause injury to yourself by trying to do so.

Kelli: Where can farmers go for more information on our NDSU Extension Farm and Ranch safety information?

Angie: Using your favorite search engine type in NDSU Extension farm and ranch safety, and you will be able to see a list of our resources available to you as farmers and ranchers to help prevent farm and ranch related incidences on your operation.

Kelli: Thank you for your time today Angie, here at NDSU Extension we wish everyone a happy and safe harvest. This has been Sound Ag Advice a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.