CFA is warning farmers to take care with their upcoming harvesting, especially after the significant rain this year.
While rain and flooding across the state have delayed harvesting season this year, many farmers are set to begin in the far north-west and west of the state towards the end of November.
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan warned farmers and the community that harvest time can be very dangerous and they need to take extra precautions.
“As the vegetation dries out, the fire risk increases and unfortunately each season we see machinery and vehicles start fires in different parts of the state,” he said.
“CFA volunteer firefighters respond to more than 200 harvesting-related fires a year on average.
“Not only do these fires put pressure on our volunteers, many of whom are farmers themselves, but it also puts farmers’ profits and safety at risk.”
Chief Officer Heffernan said even small fires can quickly spread to the whole paddock within minutes, so it is vital to be prepared and exercise caution when preparing to harvest.
“Awareness is the key to avoiding harvester fires. This season will see farmers working in challenging conditions as they harvest their crops, but it is important that machinery and equipment are regularly maintained and cleaned, as well as inspected thoroughly before and during use,” he said.
“Hot and dry conditions are a particular concern for CFA; if it’s a high fire risk day, our advice is to postpone any work that was planned to be conducted in the paddock.
“Activities like harvesting, grinding, welding, slashing, or mowing can quickly ignite fires in hot, dry conditions, and they can become dangerous very quickly.”
CFA reminded farmers to ensure machinery such as headers are routinely maintained, moving parts and bearings are regularly inspected and cleaned of any material on hot engine components.
“It should be part of everyone’s routine to check for straw or grass build-up in machinery, to maintain its spark arrestors, and to take regular breaks when operating machinery to ensure it doesn’t get too hot,” Chief Officer Heffernan said.
CFA reminded farmers to have adequate firefighting resources available in paddocks where harvesting operations are conducted, and advised against driving vehicles and motorbikes through dry grass as exhaust systems can ignite dry grass underneath on hot days.
“Farm machinery should also carry fire suppression equipment such as a knapsack spray pump or water fire extinguisher.
“Farmers are often the first responders to grass fires and they understand the risks and seriousness of operating machinery in hot, dry conditions,” Chief Officer Heffernan said.
“Being fire safe on your farm should be part of any fire plan you have.”
Crop and farm machinery fire safety
- The most common cause of harvester fires is material collecting on hot engine components such as the manifold, exhaust and turbocharger.
- The key to avoiding harvester fires is diligence in clean-down and inspection.
- Postpone paddock work during the highest fire-risk periods. On hot, dry days, exercise extreme caution before harvesting, grinding, welding, slashing or mowing.
- Check the weather conditions against the Grain Harvesting Operations Guide before harvesting.
- Check for total fire ban or severe weather warnings and current fire incidents and follow recommendations.
- Avoid driving vehicles and motorbikes through dry grass or crop - the risk from the hot exhaust system is high. Driving vehicles with catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters through dry grass and crops is particularly hazardous.
- Take regular breaks.
- Make it part of your routine to check for straw or grass build-up, and hot bearings.
- Check machinery to ensure that spark arrestors are maintained.
- Prepare a communication plan that includes family, contractors and neighbours.
- Prepare strategic fire breaks to stop fires entering or leaving your property.
- Run regular maintenance checks on farm machinery.
- Monitor machinery regularly during operations.
- Monitor weather conditions throughout the day and stop operations if it becomes hot and dry.
- During paddock operations have the appropriate firefighting equipment in place. You’re required by law, to have a 9-litre water pressured extinguisher on hand.
- For more information, visit the CFA website.