Crop fires can see profits go up in smoke, CFA warns

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Farmers celebrating the potential for bumper crops following decent winter rainfall have been warned by CFA to take care when harvesting the welcome yields.


The seasonal outlook predicts strong vegetation growth this spring due to average to above average rainfall and many farmers are eagerly looking forward to a successful harvesting season that looks set to begin in the far North West in early October, and then continue in the areas around Ouyen towards the end of October and further south around Warracknabeal and Wycheproof in early November.

But CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan warned that as the vegetation dries out, the fire risk will increase.

“Harvest time can be very dangerous and each season unfortunately we see machinery and vehicles spark 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 fires caused by machinery and harvesting operations can be avoided if farmers and harvest contractors take care and follow the correct practices.

“The key to avoiding harvester fires is diligence. We know farmers will be working extremely hard this season to harvest their crops, but it is important that they consistently clean and maintain their machinery, as well as inspect it 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.

“In hot and dry conditions activities such as harvesting, grinding, welding, slashing or mowing can spark fires very easily and they can become dangerous quite 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-ups 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 heat up and ignite dry grass underneath on hot days.

“Farmers are usually CFA’s strongest advocates for managing fire risk as they know the consequences of fires starting on their properties and the risk to both their crops and machinery, and those of their neighbours,” 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 Fire Danger Rating 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 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.
  • Have the appropriate firefighting equipment in place. You’re required by law, to have a 9-litre water pressured extinguisher on hand.
  • More info:


Submitted by CFA News & Media