09/28/10 While the short term weather forecast this week speaks of a couple of opportunities for rainfall, it is doubtful that it will turn around the current recent very dry and now dangerous conditions that farmers are facing as they continue the harvest. The three-month forecast offers little relief with higher than normal temperatures and below normal rainfall predicted right through Christmas.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) and Hancock County Purdue Cooperative Extension Service are reminding Hoosiers that combines are especially vulnerable to fires because of the many hours they operate at a time and the dry crop fodder that can collect on them. During hot, dry weather, very dry fodder provides an excellent source to fuel a flame whenever a fire is ignited.

Much of what causes machinery fires are overheated bearings and belts, exhaust components, clutches and brakes, electrical malfunctions and sparks caused by damaged or improperly adjusted components, and foreign material entering the processing path. The friction that develops with drive components clogged with crop material also can also result in fire.

As combines have become larger, they carry much larger quantities of fuel, lubricants and hydraulic oil. Even small leaks in any of the systems using flammable liquids can result in a large fire in seconds.

Purdue Extension Specialist Gail Deboy suggests the following ways farmers can minimize the potential for combine and field fires and better react in the event of a fire:

· Perform regular maintenance on machinery. Keep combines clean, free of crop residue and free of fuel and oil leaks. Regular inspection and maintenance of bearings, seals, potential crop wrap points and exhaust systems minimizes potential ignition points.

· Maintain the electrical system. Keep a close eye on components that draw heavy electrical loads, such as starter motors, remote actuators and heating and cooling systems.

· Install several portable fire extinguishers on every large piece of machinery.

· Keep a cell phone handy and don’t hesitate to call for help. Small field or machinery fires can be contained if emergency personnel can respond quickly.

Numerous brush and field fires have already necessitated the temporary evacuation of some residents across southern and central portions of Indiana. “Even if your area isn’t under a burn ban, pay attention to the instructions of all fire department and law enforcement personnel,” says Indiana State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson. “Field fires and other types of wildfires are extremely dangerous. Public safety personnel are doing their best to keep everyone safe. Hoosiers can do their part by being ready and willing to evacuate quickly if necessary.”

Fore more information, go to in.gov/dhs and click on the “Statewide Burn Ban” link.