Dry weather causing machine fire rise

The sustained heat and dry weather at the start of this year’s harvest resulted in the highest incidence of machine fires for years.

According to farm insurance specialist Harold Woolgar, a director of FarmWeb, this year has seen more claims for fire than any other time he can remember.

This view is confirmed by NFU Mutual which also reports that July’s claims for fire-damaged harvesters are higher than ever – including one for a new combine which burnt out on its first day.

“I have dealt with 14 major farm fires, including six balers and four combines,” says Mr Woolgar.”And the loss was not just the value of the machinery – there was damage to crops and the cost of finding replacement equipment at short notice.”

Clearly concerned about the number of fires, he maintains that fitting a fire detection system as standard on combine harvesters and other key harvesting machinery could save thousands of pounds in claims – and even lives.

He cites the recent case of a combine harvester fire where the operator, who could smell burning, stopped the combine and opened the cab door to be met with a sheet of flame and smoke.

“The guy narrowly escaped with his life and the combine was totally destroyed along with a large area of the field in which he was working,” says Mr Woolgar.

As such, he is now calling for a proactive approach from manufacturers to reduce the risk of similar fires and points out that there are pressurised sprinkler systems available which could be fitted to all combines when they are built.

These systems, when smoke or excessive heat are detected, cut off the fuel supply to the engine and douse the whole engine compartment to put out any fires.

NFU Mutual recommends regular checks are made on fire extinguishers to ensure they are working and that a 25-litre drum of water is carried on the combine to assist with cooling when a fire has been put out.