How Farmers Can Avoid 3 Top Igniters Of Combine Fires

Staying diligent means staying safe—and protecting your hard work from fire

All that iron rolling across dry fields during harvest can easily spark a fire. Taking precautions can save more than bushels—it can save your life or the lives of your crew. Combine and tractor fires not only cause 40 to 50 serious injuries each year, they also cost more than $20 million in property losses and valuable time, says Dick Nicolai, South Dakota Cooperative Extension farm machinery and safety specialist. 

Take these steps to prevent a combine fire at harvest:

Electrical Igniters

  • Keep wiring and fuses in proper working condition.
  • Correctly route and insulate all replacement wires.
  • Use heat-resistant insulation.
  • Check wiring and insulation for rodent damage and replace if needed.

Fuel and Mechanical Igniters

  • Keep fuel line connections tight and in good condition.
  • Don’t fuel up while smoking or the engine is running.
  • Quickly clean oil and fuel spills.
  • Check lubricant levels.
  • Grease fittings.
  • Watch for overheated bearings.
  • Inspect your exhaust system for leaks, residue and loose pipes.

Chaff and Trash Igniters

  • Use a pressure washer or air compressor to clean out chaff and trash before each use.
  • Attach a ground chain to prevent static charges from igniting any chaff or harvest trash. You can attach a chain to the frame of your combine with a bolt and hang it up while driving down the road, then let the chain drag on the ground while in the field.

Safety First

  • Keep at least one fully charged, 10-lb. ABC fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Check extinguishers monthly for signs of damage, cracks in the hose and gauges for charge.
  • Have extinguishers checked annually by a certified professional.  
  • Call 911 first if a fire breaks out and then attempt to extinguish it. Remember P.A.S.S.: Pull the pin, aim the nozzle, squeeze the handle and sweep from side to side.