FARMER FOCUS: Fighting fires in hot harvest sun

Summer is hot in Western Australia and the past few days have been no exception. The day starts at 18C and steadily rises to 36C and then 40C as the day progresses. This has a few advantages, such as bringing ideal conditions for harvest with early starts and late finishes, but it has one large disadvantage – fire.

There are two items that never leave your sight on these hot days, a fire radio and the fire unit. Every farm in Western Australia is required to have a fire unit of more than 600 litres and it’s required to be with you when you’re working with machinery outside.

We had just moved harvest to a property 25 miles to the south of our home farm when we got the call – “fire at Royston Park”. That’s next door to home. I took off in the fire unit and by the time I got there the fire was about 30ha in size and burning through a standing wheat crop, towards our farm.

Working in teams, you attack the fire from the back, working your way forward in a circling motion, attacking the fire in short bursts and then circling around away from the fire to fall in behind the next truck to attack again. We do this because the heat and smoke is so intense you can only handle short bursts.

After about an hour the fire was stopped, by this time there were about 30 units at the fire and the site was quickly put out and made safe and then everyone went home to continue harvest. The fire was started when wheat dust on the engine manifold caught fire and dropped to the ground.

One great thing about rural communities is the willingness to drop everything instantly to help out, instead of looking for someone else to fix the problem. No matter how big or small the problem, you know someone will always be there to help.

I wish all my readers a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Rob Warburton farms 3,000ha with his wife Jen and two daughters in Kojonup, below Perth, in Western Australia. Cropping includes wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Wildflower seed is grown for retail. Merino sheep are reared for wool and meat

More on this topic

Read more from all our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Need a contractor?

Find one now