With the 2020 wheat harvest just around the corner, farmers are preparing to get that grain out of the fields as fast as possible. The past week in Ontario has been intensely hot. This means dry, dangerous conditions in the field.
Three Field Crop News team members with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) – Ian McDonald, Vicki Hilborn and Alex Barrie – have compiled a resource on how to avoid, prepare for and react to harvest fires.
Similar conditions in July of 2016-2018 resulted in a slew of harvest and field fires. Harvest fires create a financial, emotional and environmental burden to the farm and risks the lives of farm personnel, local fire departments and the public.
Harvest fires can happen in any crop, but are more prevalent during mid-summer in cereal crops. Field fires need to ignite under specific circumstances, but harvest fires can occur under hot and dry or damp conditions.
To reduce the likelihood and impact of a harvest fire, develop a plan which includes Avoid, Prepare and React components. This plan should be written down, shared with staff and updated regularly.
Here are some of the recommendations that McDonald, Hilborn and Barrie make:
Keep equipment well-maintained and cleaned, and don’t park equipment on field stubble.
- Ensure all 911 markers are in place and clearly visible;
- Have field locations and GPS markers for field entrances documented and available to all employees;
- Identify all nearby sources of water (ponds, hydrants, streams) that fire services can use to fill tankers, have these mapped and included with your plan.
- Before any attempt to extinguish the fire, call 911;
- Notify farm staff on-site before attempting to extinguish the fire;
- Prioritize human safety;
- Remember that fires spread and change direction quickly – be observant and prepared to react quickly.
For the full report, visit the OMAFRA Field Crop News website.