Farming can be a fire hazard
Last month I visited a cotton farm to take pictures and video of cotton harvest. When I arrived, the farmer was getting the cotton picker ready to take to the field.
As I watched, he started blowing off the machine with a backpack leaf blower. Dirt, old cotton fiber, and debris went flying. I asked him why he was cleaning off the machine and how often he took the time to do that. His answer surprised me: Cleaning the cotton picker is part of his daily routine to lower the risk of fire.
Cotton pickers and combines, which harvest corn, soybeans, and other grains, can be a fire hazard. The combination of dry plant material, heat, and air creates a risk for fire every time one of the machines is running. Each year there are more than $20 million in losses of equipment across the United States. That doesn’t include injuries to workers, loss of time harvesting crops, or loss of the crop itself.
Fire is a concern any time a combine or cotton picker is harvesting crops. Dry material like cotton lint, straw, plant parts, leaves and dust can be highly flammable. Cotton has a distinct smell when burning. It’s so distinct I’ve seen recommendations to burn a small bit so any operators will recognize the smell.
While picking, the operator’s attention is most often focused out the front windshield of the cab on the crop being harvested. Part of the danger is that the fire often starts in areas behind the operator, so they may not see the fire until it’s grown too large to control with a fire extinguisher. One thing I noticed while taking pictures was how many fire extinguishers were on the cotton picker. I counted five in various places, including two right outside the cab door.
There are plenty of tips on preventing a combine or cotton harvester fire and how to prepare just in case. It’s something anyone getting behind the wheel of one of those machines must take seriously, because they can do everything to prevent a fire, but one spark can ignite the flames.