Farmers are being urged to consider using an infrared heat gun to determine if bearings are heating up and use compressed air to blow down headers during harvest, as wheels start to roll through bumper crops as harvest gets under way. With another bumper crop forecast for WA’s grain growing regions, preventing harvester fires was a hot topic at recent harvester forums run across the nation by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. GRDC has issued a lengthy checklist of ways farmers can reduce the risk of harvester fires this season. This includes: About seven per cent of harvesters start a fire each year, in a range of crop types including cereals and pulses. Kondinin Group engineer Ben White said about 50 per cent of harvester fires were caused by either failed bearings or insufficient harvester hygiene in combination with incendiaries emanating from hot exhaust components. He said Australian farmers were also in a unique operating environment in terms of harvesting in conditions conducive to fires, but international harvester manufacturers were unlikely to alter machine design or materials in response to Australian needs. “An infrared heat gun is a perfect tool to use regularly throughout the day to determine if bearings are getting hotter,” Mr White said. “Ideally, keep a record of your findings to determine if bearings are getting hotter — a sign of imminent failure.” To eliminate dust and chaff build-up, Mr White said to improve harvester hygiene by blowing it down regularly with compressed air. A high-powered battery-operated leaf blower can also be a useful tool for clean-down and can be kept in the cabin for quick access. “Those running weed seed impact mills may have to blow down their machines more frequently because they generate fine dust,” he said. “Chickpea and lentil dust are among the worst for settling on exhaust systems and creating incendiaries due to their fine particle size and low smoulder point.” He also urged farmers to ensure their harvester was fitted with the right style of fire extinguishers. “I like to see one white band dry chemical powder (class ABE) and one red band water (class A) fire extinguisher near the cabin steps and the same combination at the rear of the machine,” Mr White said. “A water extinguisher is useful to carry on the harvester to quickly put out small spots of burning crop. “For powder-type extinguishers, tip them over once every 12 months to make sure the powder hasn’t clumped in the bottom, and they will need a recharge if they have been used at all.” If farmers thought conditions were too hot and windy to harvest, Mr White said, then it was likely they you should stop. “There is an updated method of measuring fire weather risk now known as the Fire Behaviour Index which replaced the Fire Danger Index. Get to know it and stop harvesting as the FBI approaches 40. Encourage your neighbours to do the right thing as well,” he said. “Be proactive and sit down with your team before harvest to ensure everybody knows what to do and whom to contact, usually 000, if there is a fire. “Also consider adding a water tank and pump to the chaser bin because the chaser bin driver is often first on the scene. Adding a remotely operated nozzle to the system will minimise the risk for operators.” Growers can access GRDC resources including the Reducing Harvest Fires Back Pocket Guide and the Harvester Forum Harvester Fires video on the GRDC website.