Bumper crops bring CFA fire warning

On average, CFA crews across state respond to more than 200 harvesting related fires every year.

The potential for bumper crops following decent winter rainfall is bringing joy to parts of Victoria, but CFA has warned farmers to take care when harvesting the welcome yields.

Much of Victoria, including parts of the Mallee, Wimmera and Far South West, is drier than normal, however above median rainfall is forecast across Victoria during spring, which could result in greater crops and yield but also increased potential fuels if a fire were to start.

On average, CFA crews across state respond to more than 200 harvesting related fires every year.

The predicted follow-up spring rainfall across parts of Victoria has many farmers now looking ahead to a successful harvesting season this year, eager to begin operations.

CFA Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook 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 vital that they consistently clean and maintain their machinery, as well as inspect it thoroughly before and during use,” A/CO Cook 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,” A/CO Cook said.

He also advised against driving vehicles and motorbikes through dry grass.

“There is a risk your car exhaust system can heat up and ignite the dry grass underneath on hot days,” A/CO Cook said.

“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.

“Harvest time can be very dangerous and each season unfortunately we see machinery and vehicles spark fires in different parts of the state.”

CFA also reminded farmers to have adequate firefighting resources available in paddocks where harvesting operations are conducted.

“Being fire safe on your farm should be part of any fire plan you have,” A/CO Cook said.

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 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 changes.

– Have the appropriate firefighting equipment in place. You’re required by law, to have a 9-litre water pressured extinguisher on hand.

– More info: https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/operating-farming-machinery-equipment-and-vehicles

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