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Reduce the Risk of Hayfield Fires With These 13 Tips

While the Midwest is getting some much needed rain this week, other parts of the country haven’t been as fortunate. Dry conditions in places like South Dakota are making field fires a very real concern as growers head to the field to harvest hay. 

Before you pull that baler into your hayfield, Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension dairy field specialist, encourages growers to do a maintenance check to reduce the risk of fire.

“Dry conditions this year have reminded many of how quickly fires can ignite causing damage, destroying equipment and future feedstuffs, and potentially putting lives at risk,” says Erickson. “Prevention and maintenance only take a few minutes vs. trying to recover from a catastrophic loss caused by a potentially avoidable fire.”

Here are Erickson’s 13 tips to reduce your risk in the field.

1. Take out the trash. “Remove any trash or plant material accumulation on the baler,” she says. “Take the time to blow off dust, leaves, and dry stems.”

2. Keep it clean. “Keep the baler free and clean of oil, grease, or hydraulic fluid accumulation, which also attracts and holds dust while baling and is highly ignitable,” explains Erickson.

3. Be ready to extinguish flames. “Carry an ABC fire extinguisher on the baler or in your tractor at all times,” she says. “An ABC-rating on fire extinguishers means it is rated to control: “A” - trash, wood, paper; “B” - liquids; and “C” - electrical.”

Put the extinguisher in an easily accessible place. In addition, check to make sure it is adequately charged with fire retardant and is not beyond its expiration date.

4. Bring water. Erickson says to carry a minimum of 4 gallons of water to use if a fire should start.

5. Bring tools. “It is also recommended you have a shovel or spade on hand to throw dirt on a fire or pat out the hot spots,” she notes.

6. Do an inspection. “Take time to inspect all moving parts for wear or friction before heading out to bale,” Erickson says.

7. Avoid overfilling. “Do not overfill the fuel tank as the overflow of fuel has a potential to become ignited,” she cautions. If a spill does occur, it should be cleaned up immediately. 

Be sure the engine and electrical equipment are switched off when you fill the fuel tank. To avoid sparks, the fuel nozzle should be grounded against the filler neck.

8. Make repairs immediately. If you notice a hydraulic or fuel leak, it should be repaired right away. Remember to clean up any spills. “Hydraulic fluid is flammable,” Erickson notes.

9. Weld wisely. “If welding repairs are required, take care not to weld near pipes, tubes, or hoses filled with flammable fluid such as gas, oil, or hydraulic oil,” she says.

10. No smoking. “Do not smoke near the baler or tractor as this adds to the potential for a spark to cause a fire ignition,” Erickson cautions.

11. Stay charged. Be sure you carry a charged cell phone with you should you need to call for help.

12. Know your location. You should be able to give directions to your location in case of an emergency. 

13. Share your location. Tell others where you will be working so you can be found as quickly as possible in an emergency.  

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