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Fire prevention key to combine safety

Slideshow: Insurance agents learn firsthand about the risks they insure on modern farms.

Independent insurance agents attending a conference to update themselves on farm issues followed Greg Bossaer into the shop at the Purdue University Agronomy Center for Research and Education. In most ways, it’s like a modern shop that might be found on a farm. Bossaer, Purdue Extension, parked himself in front of a relatively new John Deere combine with an eight-row corn head. His mission was to acquaint insurance agents who write farm policies with the dollars at stake and risks involved in modern farming.

“How much do you think this machine sitting here cost new?” Bossaer asked. Some guesses were close. He allowed that it was around $300,000, give or take, without the head. He also pointed to the GPS receiver on top of the cab.

“It has autosteering and yield mapping. Those are options that add more expense to the machines, but which provide valuable services and information for farmers,” he said.

Next came the risk discussion. “One of the dangers in the fall if it’s dry is a combine fire,” Bossaer said. He noted that several had occurred in his county in recent times, adding that the combine’s color didn’t matter when it came to susceptibility to a fire.

“The biggest problem is that while this machine is clean now, it gets dirty quickly once you begin harvesting,” Bossaer said. “Especially if it’s dry, dust can accumulate. Residue and chaff can also build up in various places on the machine.

“A fire can start quickly with a spark in the wrong place. The fire can often be out of hand before the operator knows it.”

That’s why it’s crucial to stop and remove residue that builds up below the cab on the head, and in areas near the motor, he said. It’s also important to carry a fire extinguisher on board and make sure it’s in working order.   

Check out the slideshow for more combine safety tips.

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