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Harvesting workshops build safer communities
CFA District 17 Headquarters Brigade Captain Kevin Bolwell and West Region Community Education Coordinator Jenny McGennisken are helping to build safer communities through workshops that advise farmers about the fire risks associated with harvest machinery.
This safety initiative, which originated in the Wimmera, is now in its second year and expanding into other regions across the state.
The 2017 workshops ran from September to November. The workshops share important information about:
- weather conditions
- tiers of emissions
- heat sources
- CFA and the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Voluntary Grain Harvesting Guide
- recommended practices for operators
- property owners’ responsibilities
- harvest fire planning
- burning off.
Kevin said last year hundreds of people came along to workshops, taking on board the content and asking lots of questions to make sure they were well prepared.
“It was great to see such a strong turnout. I’d spent a number of months researching and preparing content for discussion so I’m pleased I was able to share it with so many people in the community,” Kevin said.
Jenny said that Kevin’s knowledge was the key to the success of the workshops and it was no wonder they’re so popular with Kevin doing extensive homework in the lead-up to the sessions, working with the farming community and discussing prevention strategies with a range of experts.
After retiring, Kevin did a lot of research, including reading reports from the US and Europe.
“I also reflected on my personal experience of harvest fires on my land and my neighbours’ properties, with more than 40 years’ experience as a farmer and CFA volunteer,” he said.
“I then got to work with the farming community, trialling techniques and equipment I’d been researching. We tried harvesting in paddocks at different angles and speeds, depending on wind direction, and I rode in the back of a header to watch the interaction between dust and the manifold.”
Jenny said the workshops were about encouraging people to have a harvest plan.
“A lot of people have a farm fire plan but not always a harvest plan, or any fire plan, which is an uncomfortable thought,” she said.
“We just want to raise awareness and build safer communities. Hopefully, these educational workshops will result in fewer farm-related fires.
“We’ve had really positive feedback about the workshops, saying they provide valuable information and strategies for farmers to reduce fire risk while harvesting. This is testament to Kevin’s incredible hard work in bringing this concept to life.”
The workshop has been filmed so the knowledge and advice can be shared across other CFA districts.
Photo by Wayne Rigg