Combine and Tractor Fires – A Burning Problem

Denise GillinAgribusiness, Risk Management

Excerpted from John Shutske, UW CALS / Extension, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Combine and tractor fires cause over $20 million in property losses each year and millions more because of lost time and downed crops during the busy harvest season. They also cause 40 to 50 serious injuries each year and occasionally death. Prevention begins with a focus on keeping machinery clean and eliminating sources of heat that could lead to a fire.

Cleanliness and maintenance: Begin every harvest season with a clean machine.

  • Use a pressure washer to remove caked-on grease, oil, and crop residue, paying particular attention to the engine and engine compartment.
  • Use compressed air to frequently blow off any dry chaff, leaves, and other material on the machine.
  • Clear any wrapped plant materials from bearings, belts, and other moving parts.
  • Follow instructions and schedules as outlined in the machine’s operator’s manual. Immediately replace or repair leaking fuel or oil housings, fittings, or metal lines.

Eliminate heat sources: Fires can be caused by several heat sources.

  • Make sure the exhaust system – manifold, muffler, and turbocharger are in good condition and free of leaks.
  • Scan exposed electrical wiring for damage or signs of deterioration.
  • Replace any worn or malfunctioning electrical components with proper parts from a dealer.
  • Beware of arcing electrical wires. Blowing fuses or circuits intermittently cutting out are a sign of a short or loose connection.
  • Check for worn bearings, belts, and chains. A badly worn bearing can be red hot and rubber belts subjected to intense heat from a worn part can burst into flames.

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For more information, contact a member of the Murray Risk Control Team at 717.397.9600.

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