Extinguishing the risk of harvester fires
Published 08/07/2015 | 02:30
Combines are massively expensive machines but for one or two unfortunate operators each year disaster strikes and a fire can take hold.
When it comes to reducing the chance of having a combine blaze, there are two key points to remember: prevention and preparation.
We all remember the 'fire triangle' from our science days back in school, which states that you need three ingredients for a fire: fuel, heat and oxygen.
You can't really do much about the heat from the engine and oxygen from the environment, so to prevent combine fires you have to be extra careful to remove the fuel - the grain and chaff - component. This is best done by keeping the machine clean.
Before you take the combine into the fields in the coming weeks, take the time to power-wash it to remove caked-on grease, oil and crop residue. Get into the good habit of blowing away any chaff, leaves and other crop materials from the machine at the end of each day's work.
It's a good idea, too, to remove any crop residue that has become wrapped around bearings, belts and other moving parts because these can generate significant heat after a few hours working. At the end of a long day harvesting don't be tempted to park a hot, caked-up combine in the shed because smoldering hot spots can spell disaster.
Specific areas to blow out include:
• The engine - especially the exhaust manifold, turbocharger, muffler and exhaust pipe
• Hydrostatic pump, motor, hydraulic lines and tubes
• Brake and transmission housings
• Electrical components
• Engine drives and all moving parts
• Batteries and battery cables
• Straw chopper drive gear compartments
It is possible to eliminate some heat sources from the combine. For example, covering up hot exhaust surfaces and replacing any exposed electrical wiring could make safe your machine this summer.
Worn bearings and belts are two other culprits that can easily generate enough heat to make dust and crop residue catch fire. Get the combine operator to take control of his machine and check these areas daily.
Document the problems, make repairs as necessary and sign off on them as they are corrected so that you can keep on top of running costs. While the hope is that it doesn't come to it, in the event of a combine fire you have to be prepared.
Always keep at least one fully charged and certified dry chemical fire extinguisher in the combine cab. Ideally you want to mount a second fire extinguisher on the outside of the machine that can be reached from ground level. The second one can be a water-charged extinguisher, but never use a water extinguisher on an oil fire.
You should recharge any partially discharged extinguishers before the season starts, otherwise they are about as useful as an Athens ATM.