Bigger harvesting machines mean bigger fires

Earlier in the week, I shared a photo posting on Facebook of a combine fire that occurred in a Minnesota soybean field. The season is in full swing in many parts of the country, and these types of fires are occurring more and more as the season progresses. Silage harvest is wrapping up in some areas, while grain harvest is just really getting into gear across much of the country. And in the south, cotton harvest will soon begin.
So, are you ready for harvest-related fires? Do you know what trucks you will roll? What information will you try to obtain at initial dispatch? Will you call for mutual aid right away? Remote locations may require brush rigs for access, but with the amount of plastics that make up the newest machines in the body panels and even some of the interior mechanisms, the fireload will likely be heavier than the suppression capabilities of even a couple thousand gallons. Add in dual tires that are now standard on many large machines, and of course more combustible liquids, and you have a recipe for a total loss from the moment you get called.
The amount of combustible liquids that the larger machines now carry is vastly larger than in the years gone by, and now much is contained in poly tanks that do not resist fires. Larger machines require larger power plants, and larger power plants require more fuel and lubrication. Add in the lubrication for other mechanical aspects like hydraulics, transmission, and gearboxes, and you quickly have many gallons of combustible liquid that are strategically running all over the machine.
The machine shown above is actually a series that was built around 2009-2011, and today’s machines have grown even more. A quick tally from the capacity chart below shows the 9570STS combine carries right around 230 gallons of fuel and oils. Today’s machines are regularly carrying over 300 gallons of diesel fuel. And remember, this is all in rubber hoses and poly tanks that will not resist heat and will quickly become involved in a fire. And of course, combustible liquids that are heated sufficiently essentially become flammable liquids.
Fire photo credits to Lance Otto of Otto Farms in Redwood Falls, MN.

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