Practicing fire safety in the field during harvest involves equipment maintenance, observation, fire extinguishers and taking care of yourself.
“Above all, observe your machinery,” advised Dave Newcomb, Illinois Fire Service Institute, agriculture program manager. “Every couple of hours just get out of the machine and walk around it, stretch your legs and take a minute to check it over.”
Making sure that equipment is greased well, watching vehicle exhaust and cleaning off debris on a regular basis are also important measures.
In addition, every piece of equipment and even trucks should have a fire extinguisher in them. Holcomb recommends a five-pound ABC dry chemical extinguisher.
“There are usually fire equipment companies around,” explained Newcomb. “You can look them up online. You can also buy extinguishers from Menards, Lowes, Farm and Fleet or Rural King. The important part of those is the valve on top needs to be metal. If it’s a small extinguisher that has a plastic valve, that is a one-time use. It can’t be refilled and restored.”
Fire extinguishers should also be serviced by a fire equipment company every single year. Extinguishers with a metal valve can be reused, but they will need to be serviced after every use.
If a fire does occur, the operator should get out of the tractor as soon as possible and call 911. Promptly calling 911 is key in rural areas because there are longer response times for volunteer fire departments. If an extinguisher is used, it’s important to remember that they shoot a stream of about 10 feet, so there is no need to rush right up to the fire.
At the end of the day, keeping farmers and their harvest team safe should be a first priority.
“Harvest is a time when we get in a rush and get in a hurry,” said Newcomb. “And that’s when accidents happen. Above all, every once in a while, just step back take a big deep breath. We service our machinery so that it’s ready to go. Not only should you take care of your equipment but take care of your people. Take a break every now and then. Eat, drink and above all, take care of yourself and watch yourself.”