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Surviving a combine fire

Surviving a combine fire
Dry soybeans and even drier fields created a perfect storm for fire conditions in our area

A friend once told me that if I farmed long enough, everything would happen to me. He meant price fluctuations, poor yields, and management struggles -- or so I thought. I never thought that a combine fire would be on that list.

I have heard of combines catching fire, but figured I was immune to it.  We run a newer combine and I do a good job of checking belts and chains, doing maintenance, and keeping things pretty clean.

Where there's smoke…

I had just dumped a grain tank full of beans in my uncle's grain cart. I did a couple of rounds, switched from NPR to the local country radio station, and was enjoying cutting good-yielding beans on a farm I rent.

Dry soybeans and even drier fields created a perfect storm for fire conditions in our area

I thought I smelled smoke, so I opened the cab door. My uncle called me on the two-way radio and said he smelled smoke, too. Thinking it was a bearing, I shut down the combine. We looked around and did not see any flames. Then we saw smoke coming out of the chopper. I called the dealership and they sent out a technician.

I walked to the left side a few minutes later and saw flames in the wiring behind the cab. It probably took ten seconds to get the fire extinguisher off the ladder, but it felt like ten minutes. My uncle got the other extinguisher. We put the flames out, but the fire kept coming back.

Luckily, the technician arrived with another extinguisher and also called the fire department to help. The combine will be fine once repaired. Dry soybeans, even drier fields, and a lot of dust have created a perfect storm for fire conditions in my area.

I was shaken up the rest of the day. I even thought about not wanting to run the combine again this year. A friend told me I better get back in a combine the next day and shrug it off. He was right - I hopefully have decades of running a combine in front of me and I should not let one mishap change it.

I finished soybean harvest today.

List of thanks for the week: my uncle, the dealership, the fire department, two-way radios, and fire extinguishers. Please be safe and stay aware during the rest of harvest. Harvest is a team effort, so take care of each other. 

The opinions of Maria Cox are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

Farmers: Take farm safety to your community
Preventing Combine Fires During Harvest
Farm Fire Safety Preparation Could Save Your Combine
Carry a Fire Extinguisher, Know it Works

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