Farmers told to fit fire suppression systems as combine blazes rise

Combine fires were up 35% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to figures from NFU Mutual (Photo: NFU Mutual)
Combine fires were up 35% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to figures from NFU Mutual (Photo: NFU Mutual)

Farmers are being warned their harvest could be at risk if they don't fit fire suppression system to their combines, as NFU Mutual dealt with claims from 124 combine blazes last year.

The rural insurer said this was up 35 percent from the previous year, with fires in 2021 including ten combines worth over £100,000 each.

Fire suppression system automatically trigger extinguishers if a small fire is detected in the machine.

There’s an even stronger case to do fit the systems this year, as replacement combines and spares are likely to be hard to get hold of.

And any delays in harvesting highly valuable arable crops are likely to be very costly this harvest.

Following a testing programme on combine harvesters, NFU Mutual said it recommended P-Mark accredited fire suppression systems.

The P-mark approved suppression kits involve dual agent systems which have two cylinders, one with powder and the other with a foam.

The powder acts by interrupting the chemical reaction taking place and cutting off the oxygen supply.

The foam suppressing agent in the second cylinder rapidly cools superhot surfaces of over 200°C in larger engine bays which also hold turbo chargers and filters.

Bob Henderson, from the agricultural engineering team at NFU Mutual said: “Suppression systems significantly reduce the risk of serious combine fires, and we urge farmers to fit them.

"An unchecked fire can easily lead to a huge blaze which puts lives at risk, and can easily spread through dry crops and even engulf property and neighbouring fields."

The P-mark is a global standard which brings together best practice from Europe. This accreditation confirms that the product is type-tested and that installation and fitting is inspected.

This approach ensures that any suppression system is suitably tested and appropriate for the conditions in which agricultural vehicles are being used.

What can I do to prevent fires?

NFU Mutual has provided farmers with tips and guidance to prevent fires this harvest:

• On newer machines fitted with information screens please ensure you follow all the guidance displayed during start up process.

•On older machines ensure all recommended daily checks are carried out

• Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots in combines and balers and check the machine over when you finish use

• Fit a suppression system that meets P-mark status to contain, extinguish and prevent fire

• Switch off engines and ensure moving parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance

• Always stop to investigate hot-running engines or bearings

• Have a plan in place in the event of fire including a system for keeping in contact with lone workers

• Keep mobile phones on you at all times - not left in a tractor or pickup cab

• Make sure drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that machinery will safely pass under wires

• Ensure there is a fire extinguisher on the combine – that it is regularly maintained - and that you know where the nearest water source is

• Use a mobile compressor (or a fixed one if fitted to the combine) to regularly blow away debris from the machine, but only do so if the exit pressure is reduced