One combine I rode on recently was covered in black soot- or at least it looked like it. It was coming off the stalks, although there didn’t appear to be stalk rot present. Another combine was caked with soybean dust in many areas around the machine. One didn’t have a fire extinguisher.
One farm family had a close call last week, but it wasn’t because the combine was full of dust or chaff. It was caused by a bearing that failed and got extremely hot. It actually started a fire. The farmer had a full, fresh fire extinguisher on the combine and was able to get the fire out with minimal damage. He was able to run again by the next day.
His incident is a reminder, however, that the further it gets into the fall, the drier crop matter will be, unless it’s damp from rain or dews. Dry material tends to catch fire faster. The incident also is a reminder that it doesn’t take a buildup of dust or chaff to start a fire. A machinery malfunction can be the cause as well. If they are sealed bearings, it’s not something you can anticipate. If some bearings require greasing, be sure to grease the machine regularly.
The biggest lesson is that it pays to have a fire extinguisher, know that it is charged, and know how to use it. A Purdue firefighter taught participants at a farm safety clinic a year ago how to use a fire extinguisher, including how far away to stand, how to pull the pin and aim at the fire. He also noted that there are different types of extinguishers for fires of different origins burning different materials. The best bet is to know the extinguisher you’re carrying will take care of engine or bearing fires if one should break out.