How to Manage Fire Risks for the Fall Harvest
The fall harvest season is upon us! During this time, farmers can find themselves working long hours in hopes of completing the extensive amount of work ahead.
It tends to be dry during the harvest and without an abundance of water, farms are more susceptible to fire hazards and risks. That’s why you need to take precautionary measures to prevent fires and, if necessary, have the equipment and training to put fires out.
We know you are very busy, but in the spirit of safety and to prevent crop loss, we invite you to read this article and prepare accordingly for possible fire hazards.
Practice Farm Fire Safety Prevention
If you want to prevent farm fires, you need to practice fire prevention at all times. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, close to 20,000 agricultural fires are responsible for $102 million in direct property losses and 25 fatalities each year. If you prepare wisely and understand your risks, you are more likely to avoid potential loss. Let’s face it. Barns can burn up within minutes and fields can light ablaze faster than you can count to the number 10. Fire departments take an average of 14-20 minutes to respond which can seem like a lifetime while a barn or field burns. So be prepared.
Take Care of Your Machinery
To start a fire, you need heat and a fuel source. A farm has plenty of both. Combines and other harvesting machinery generate heat as they operate and are generally powered by gas (a highly flammable liquid). You also have hay, wood, grass, and other highly-flammable materials around the farm, which can spread the fire
Farms are filled with fire hazards, which is why we recommend farmers keep a STOP-FYRE® fire extinguisher in their combine cab, at ground level with their machinery, and with the grain cart operator. No matter what situation you are in, quick access to your STOP-FYRE® can prevent the spreading of a fire (and ultimately save tens of thousands of dollars, if not more).
Now that you have your STOP-FYRE® in hand, let’s talk about regular maintenance. Before starting a day’s work, you need to clean your machinery. Clean the engines and remove oil, caked-on grease oil, and crop residue. When starting up machinery, you can be extra safe by using a hand-held thermal camera to check for hot spots. Also, if you can, perform yearly maintenance on all your harvesting equipment to check for loose and skipping belts, hydraulic line leaks, and other electrical hazards.
When the work day is over, check again for lingering heat and always let your engine cool down first before refueling.
Cut Down Extra Vegetation
A great way to lower your fire risk is to get rid of its fuel source. On a farm, cutting down extra vegetation can prevent fires from spreading uncontrollably. This may also be the beginning of a responsible fire response plan, which we will talk about next…
Create an Emergency Fire Plan
Even if you are prepared, a fire can still break out at any time. Instead of being surprised, you can be prepared to enact a plan to minimize damage and injuries. Here are some basic tips to help you create your own emergency plan:
1. Create a list of neighbors to call who can help during the fire.
2. Have your local fire department’s phone number ready at all times.
3. Prepare your farm with safety equipment such as first aid kits, gloves, and STOP-FYRE® extinguishers.
4. Create a plan of action for when a fire starts.
We recommend that you invest in a quality fire extinguisher like our Standard and High Capacity STOP-FYRE® units. You don’t want to find yourself with more fire than extinguisher, especially in a situation where a fire can easily spread and cause damage, so invest in a High Capacity unit to make sure you have a good chance to eliminate the fire sooner rather than later.
As we said, we recommend including multiple fire extinguishers in strategic places to maximize your chance of putting out the fire and protect yourself. If you don’t know how many you need, you can contact one of our Fire Safety Consultants here at AKE who can answer all your questions.
Fires are dangerous and often strike when we least expect it. That’s why the best way to prevent a fire is to be aware of the problem. Don’t let drop residue build up on your combine and be sure to check the engine to see if it is overheating. Before a fire starts, take the proper precautions. If a fire does start despite your efforts, always have a plan in mind to keep everyone safe and to prevent further damage. Keep this in mind, you should always contact your fire department during emergencies! Sometimes the fire will be too big to fight alone, and in some cases, a fire can lead to devastating consequences. So, keep safety as your first priority and stay safe this harvest season!