Harvest workshops in Wimmera reduce fires

CFA volunteer Kevin Bolwell has helped to reduce fires caused by harvesting machinery in the Wimmera, through running a series of workshops for farmers in the area.

Kevin worked with CFA’s Community Education team to run 13 workshops over eight weeks from September to November,  sharing information on mechanics, weather conditions, tiers of emissions, heat sources, Voluntary Harvest Guidelines, recommended practices for operators, property owners’ responsibilities, insurance and harvest fire planning.

Kevin said hundreds of people came along to workshops, engaging with content and asking lots of questions to ensure they were well prepared.

“It was great to see such a strong turn-out. 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.

Kevin certainly did extensive homework in the lead-up to the sessions, working with neighbours and discussing prevention strategies with a range of experts.

“After retiring, I had been doing a lot of research, including reading reports from the US and Europe, including world-renowned grain harvesting technology expert Dr Graeme Quick’s ground-breaking report into harvest fires, discussions with West Australian-based agricultural publisher Kondinin Group and visiting a number of farmers in the area to understand common causes of harvest fires, new farming technology, and new ways farmers can protect their land and livestock from fires during harvesting season,” he said.

“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.

“I then got to work with my neighbours trialling techniques and equipment I had 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 observe the interactions between dust and the manifold.

West Region Community Education Coordinator Jenny McGennisken worked closely with Kevin to develop content and roll out the workshops.

“We organised for workshops to be trialled across Districts 16 and 17, hosted at fire stations either by individual brigades or brigade groups, with barbecue breakfasts enticing participants along,” Jenny said.

“The workshops even became part of pre-season exercises for several brigade groups, which was great to see because it showed how valuable they saw the sessions.

“CFA Group Officers and workshop participants gave really positive feedback on the workshops as providing valuable information and strategies for farmers to reduce fire risk while harvesting, which is testament to Kevin’s incredible hard work in bringing this concept to life.”

CFA plans to film Kevin’s workshop to share his knowledge and advice across other CFA districts.  

Author: CFA Media