• Staff Writers

Farmers warned to ensure harvesters and crops don't go up in smoke


Victoria's Country Fire Authority has warned farmers celebrating the potential for bumper crops following recent rainfall to be mindful of fire dangers when harvesting welcomed yields.


The prompt comes on the back of a harvester fire that broke out in the small rural town of Carlyle in the Indigo local government area of Victoria on Tuesday.


Carl Stibilj, the acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer, stressed the need for farmers to remain vigilant as vegetation dries out:

“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.”
“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."

Farmers around the nation are being strongly encouraged to ensure they have close by adequate farm firefighting capacity when operating headers, with the requisite amount of water storage to contain a fire outbreak.


SA Power Networks have also warned farmers to be aware of where power lines are, due to machinery getting larger and the difficulty of seeing power lines from the machine and amid dust and other debris during harvesting.


According to the Deputy Group Officer of the Rutherglen Group, Paul Heard, five tankers and additional support vehicles were required in Carlyle on Tuesday:

“It was a new machine that caught fire, so we’re not sure what the cause was but it could have been something mechanical."
“The owners had their own private appliance on scene and were straight onto it but those fires go up pretty quickly."
“There was no threat of it spreading in canola stubble this time, but it’s probably a good word of warning as we get closer to wheat harvest where headers can cause large grass and scrub fires."
“The key learning is to make sure these machines are well maintained and blown down regularly, particularly this year when people are harvesting heavy crops so they do get hot.”

Barley and wheat harvesting will reportedly commence soon in the wetter parts of Victoria and New South Wales following on from canola harvests - underway already in areas around Rutherglen.


Acting Assistant CFO Stibilj warned:

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

Stibilj also noted that fires ignited by the use of machinery and harvesting operations are avoidable so long as users follow 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."
“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."