PREVENT COMBINE FIRES
Autumn weather conditions have led to an increase in combine fires. Two recommendations to prevent injuries and property damage include: preventative maintenance and pre-planning for fire emergencies.
Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for combine fires. Other states leading the list include Minnesota (1st), Iowa (2nd), Illinois (3rd), Kansas (5th), Nebraska (6th) and South Dakota (7th).
The majority of harvester fires start in the engine compartment. Contributing factors for heat sources include faulty wiring, over-heated bearings, leaking fuel or hydraulic oil. The dry crop residue makes a ready source for rapid combustion to occur when the machine is operated in the field. Birds and wildlife are known to make nests in the engine compartment or exhaust manifolds – which can add fuel sources for unsuspecting combine operators.
TIPS TO PREVENT COMBINE FIRES INCLUDE:
- Have a daily maintenance plan during the harvest period. Keeping machinery well maintained plays a large role in preventing fires from these sources. Cleaning up spills, blowing off chaff, leaves, and other plant materials on a regular basis, proper lubrication of bearings/chains, and checking electrical connections should be part of the daily routine. Farmers may choose to do their daily maintenance in the morning while waiting for the dew to burn off the crops. However, performing maintenance at night will highlight any hot-spots or smoldering areas as the machine is cooling down. Removing chaff at the end of the day will reduce the amount of debris available to spark a fire.
- Eliminate static electricity. A chain may also be mounted on the bottom of the machine to drag on the ground while in the field. This decreases the buildup of static electricity.
IF A FIRE BREAKS OUT, IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN IN PLACE:
- Call 911 or your local first responders at the first sign of a fire. Don’t wait to know if you can contain a fire yourself, rapid response is important to saving valuable equipment. Combine fires are often in remote locations where a specific address may not be available and access is limited. Emergency response times will be longer in these situations.
- Have (2) ABC fire extinguishers mounted on the combine. A 10-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher in the cab or near the ladder of the cab is quick access to protect the operator. A second extinguisher (20-pound ABC) is recommended to be mounted on the outside of combines where it is accessible from the ground. It’s possible that one unit will extinguish a small fire; having the second unit will help with any additional flare-ups. Don’t forget to check that the extinguishers are fully charged at the beginning of the season. Not having extinguishers ready when needed leads to a helpless feeling of watching one of your most expensive pieces of equipment go up in flames.
- Have a water truck positioned by the field. Hot mufflers and catalytic converters from other vehicles driving in the field can pose a risk to the dry field fodder. Smoldering materials may go by 15 to 30 minutes before being noticed. A small gust of wind could rapidly turn that smoldering into a fire. In extreme dry conditions, a water truck may help protect against field fires. Never use water on fires that are electrical or fuel-sourced.
- Have an emergency plan in place and discuss it with the other workers or family members. Knowing what to do in the event of a fire emergency is important. Knowing the address to the field and how to contact fire departments directly instead of through the 911 system are important safety conversations for the entire harvest crew.
Don’t get caught thinking it can never happen on your farm. Take preventative action and be prepared.
- Author Dee Jepsen, Extension State Safety Leader, The Ohio State University
HAY BARN FIRES
Hay fires are caused when bacteria in wet hay create so much heat that the hay spontaneously combusts in the presence of oxygen. At over 20% moisture mesophilic bacteria release heat-causing temperature to rise between 130°F to 140ºF with temperature staying high for up to 40 days. As temperatures rise, thermophilic bacteria can take off in your hay and raise temperature into the fire danger zone of over 175°F.
Assessing Your Risk: If hay was baled between 15-20% moisture and acid preservatives were used, there is still potential for a hay fire but not as great as on non-treated hay. A moisture tester on your baler can help you know how moisture varies across your field and when to use hay preservative. Without a moisture tester, if you occasionally find darker green damp spots or humidity is high, be sure to monitor for heating. (The Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Team.)
Ag Podcasts and Resources
The Purdue Center for Commercial Ag has many resources available to farmers. Recent podcasts have been posted on the website covering topics including:
- Farmer Adoption Of Enhanced Conservation
- Farm Succession: Human Resources For Transition Planning
- Corn and Soybean Outlook Updates
Future podcasts are planned for this winter (hosted by Brady Brewer) include business structures (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, Sole Proprietor); Buy/Sell Agreements; Operating Agreements; Contingency Planning and Retirement Planning.
Other resources at this website include tools such as the 2021 Purdue Crop Cost and Return Guide, which provides estimates of crop income and expenses for low, medium and high producing soils. Another valuable tool is the Crop Basis Tool, which can be used to examine weekly nearby and deferred basis for corn and soybeans in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.
IS YOUR FARM POSITIONED TO GROW?
The world of Agriculture is continually evolving. In general, the number of farms are decreasing and the size of remaining farms are getting larger. Challenges and opportunities may come at any time. This begs the question, “Is your farm positioned to grow?”
Whether looking to grow because a new family member is coming back into the operation or the operation is attempting to improve profit margins, it’s important to have a well thought-out plan. Being aware of the operations’ current financial situation is the first step. A few important financial indicators to keep in mind: working capital position and how that has changed over time, capital required to meet growth goals, as well as cash flow capabilities. Ag lenders should be able to help discuss and review these.
There are many other important questions to consider before expanding or growing. Is the operation currently profitable? Will the proposed opportunity for growth help the operation improve that profitability? What is the current debt situation? What risks are involved? It is important to consider the worst case scenario, best case scenario, and most likely scenario when evaluating growth options.
Often times when farmers think about growing, the first and only thing that comes to mind is expansion by obtaining more acres. Farm growth really could mean growing sales and becoming more profitable. This may or may not involve more acres, depending on each situation and opportunity. The goal may not be to expand the operation, but to maintain acres and stay competitive in the marketplace. Diversifying the crops grown or livestock raised could also be forms of growth.
As the saying goes, “getting better before you get bigger” may allow the operation to more readily take advantage of those opportunities to expand when available. Many farms have improved and grown over the years due to a high level of financial management.
With today’s agricultural environment, there is certainly risk and uncertainty. Having a well thought out plan and knowing the financial position of the operation can help farmers determine what options for growth are most suitable for success.
Need Crop Insurance? We Have One-Stop Shop
Bath Insurance Group offers crop & livestock insurance. D/B/A Orr & Associates, Bath Insurance Group has an office at Bath State Bank in Bath. For more details, please call Anya at the Bank or at 800-209-7238. Visit the web site at http://www.BathInsuranceGroup.com.