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Harvest fires prompt warning
CFA is urging primary producers to be extra vigilant during the harvest period following two significant fires caused by headers in the past few days. The warning is timely with more hot weather expected on Sunday, 23 December.
On Tuesday night, a crop fire broke out at Stewarton near Benalla, destroying a header and 70 hectares of wheat, and on Wednesday, a fire started in Wahring near Murchison, which burnt more than 50 hectares and threatened homes. Both fires were sparked by headers.
Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said while CFA understands the importance of cropping and harvesting, farmers need to be aware of their local conditions and be extra vigilant.
“The combination of high temperatures and relatively low humidity means there’s a strong chance that if a fire starts, it could develop quickly,” he said.
“The most important thing you can do is take regular breaks to clear out grass, sticks and seeds that become caught in airflow vents, stone guards and bash plates.
“It’s also important to regularly look behind you and know when to shut your machinery down – hot exhausts can easily start fires as can sparks when machinery hits stones.”
Mr Ferguson said being extra cautious not only saves the potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars in loss of assets, it also minimises the risk of unplanned fires starting which could risk lives and property.
“Safety should be your first priority. Extinguishers with the required nine-litre capacity should be fitted to every tractor or self-propelled header, and harvesters and other large machinery should also be equipped with a shovel,” he said.
“If you haven’t done it already, now is also a good time to check that your firefighting equipment is on hand and is in good working order.”
- Make sure headers are checked and cleaned before starting work and repeat this every hour
- Postpone unnecessary or non-essential work
- Make sure they have firefighting equipment on hand and extinguishers fitted to the headers
- Remain vigilant: look behind regularly to check for fires and take regular breaks to check for build-up of flammable materials in the machinery.
- Check for straw of grass build up while harvesting
- When carting hay, have a fire-resistant shield behind the exhaust.
- Double check all spark arrestors
- Avoid driving motorbikes through long, dry grass.
- Leave the angle grinder in the cupboard on bad days
Farmers, contractors and landholders can find fire safety advice and guidelines online at cfa.vic.gov.au/farming or call 1800 240 667 to request a free copy of CFA’s booklet On the Land.