Home Ohio Country Journal Fire safety during harvest season

Fire safety during harvest season

Knowing what to do during an emergency is important year round. However, during fall activities on the farm it is especially important to be prepared for fires. Fires are common in the fields and around the grain bins. Dried plant material and crop dust are highly combustible. Even the slightest heat source can cause ignition.


Training begins with all employees

It is important for all employees and family members to know where fire extinguishers are placed and how to use them. While it may be intuitive for supervisors to assume everyone know how to properly use an extinguisher in an emergency, when panic sets in, logical minds can check out.


Training helps workers know how to hold the extinguisher and use the PASS technique to extinguish the flame. The acronym PASS is a 4-step process:

P — Pull the Pin

A — Aim the canister at the base of the fire

S — Squeeze the trigger

S — Sweep the product from side to side over the flames to extinguish


Make fire extinguishers available

Being prepared to handle small fires before they get out of control is important for farm workers and transport drivers. Having all machinery equipped with a trustworthy 5-pound ABC fire extinguisher is one of the first lines of defense. A 10-pound unit is recommended for combines and a 20-pound unit is recommended for grain bin sites. Extinguishers should never be further than 100 feet away. If fires become too big for the extinguisher, leave the area and call the fire department for assistance.


Fire safety at the grain dryer

This time of year, it’s important for farms with grain dryers to be on alert for fires. Besides being costly losses to the grain and the drying equipment, there are also indirect costs associated with fires including additional time and labor to clear the problem, down time with the drying and storage facility, and extra time to and equipment to haul grain to another location. All of this frustration can be reduced when the operators take the time to conduct regular inspections during drying operations and perform routine housekeeping tasks.

For the most part, operators are aware of the manufacturer’s safety recommendations and system operations for their particular dryer. However it is important for all employees —  including family labor — working around the grain dryer to be informed of specific signs that could lead to fire.


Workers should be instructed on the following:

• Color of flame in the dryer indicates proper burning. Blue flames are a sign of complete combustion. If the blue flame pops wen the gas is turned off, check the inlet air adjustment for foreign matter or other obstructions. A long yellow flame indicates poor combustion, and it is necessary to clean the burner and check the regulators and inlet air adjustments.

• Do not modify the controls and sensors, and never bypass emergency shut-down controls.

• Maintain good housekeeping by keeping grain drying chambers free of accumulated foreign materials, dust, debris, and “bees wings.”

• Continually check the grain flow through the columns so that columns are full and flowing properly.

• Vents should be checked and fuel nozzles cleaned at least every 12 hours during operation.

• Do not leave the dryer unattended while it is drying. Continually inspect, look, and listen for signs of trouble.

• Have a 20-pound ABC fire extinguisher at the grain dryer site, and be trained to know when and how to use it.

With awareness and planning, Ohio farmers can protect their commodities, equipment and facilities from fires. Having employees trained to recognize the first signs of danger and access to fully charged fire extinguishers are the minimum forms of protection. Being fire smart can go a long way when an emergency strikes during harvest season.