A combine fire can be difficult to extinguish, especially if firefighters are unfamiliar with today’s large farm equipment.
Lexington Fire Chief Mark Brown and Captain Tom Morrison showed members of the Fairbury Fire Department how to handle a combine emergency recently. The pair demonstrated what to take apart on the machine, the spots where fires are most likely and how to reach someone who may be trapped.
“It was a good class and it gave us some knowledge because when it gets to be fall and it gets dry, we do wind up with fires,” said Fairbury Fire Chief Martin Steidinger.
Experts say prevention is the key to avoiding problems. Iowa State Extension came up with a list of safety tips posted at www.extension.iastate.edu. This includes keeping the machine clean, checking oil and coolant levels daily, frequently blowing leaves and other material away from the engine area and cleaning ledges or areas near fuel tanks and lines.
In the case of a fire, you should call 911 first then attack the blaze with extinguishers if it is safe to do. Brown and Morrison reminded the firefighters to always fight from the “black,” which is the area already burned in a field. Fighting from areas with standing stalks is risky.
Steidinger warns against burning trash or other debris in the fall when things dry up outside. He noted that most field fires last year were caused by trash fires.
“We had a few machine (fires), but most of them were started by a trash fire at a residence,” he said.