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How to halt field fires

By Staff | Feb 27, 2013

Humboldt Fire Department assistant Chief Jim Gronbach speaks Wednesday at the Iowa Corn Crop Fair held at Iowa Central Community College. Gronbach offered producers tips on preventing combine and field fires during the harvest season.

FORT DODGE – Iowa farmers always face the possibility of seeing the crop they labored over throughout the growing season go up in smoke due to a fire during the harvest.

Last year’s drought only made the threat worse, according to Humboldt Assistant Fire Chief Jim Gronbach.

”We saw quite a few field fires last year,” he said Wednesday.

Gronbach, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 27 years, gave farmers gathered at Iowa Central Community College some advice on how to prevent field fires during the harvest. He spoke to about 50 people during the County Crop Fair conducted by the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

Keeping the combine clean is a good way to prevent such blazes, according to Gronbach. Removing all the pieces of corn leaves and stalks that accumulate in the machine eliminates material that could ignite if it came in contact with heat, he said.

Gronbach recommended using a leaf blower to blow all the debris out of a combine. He described a leaf blower as ”cheap insurance” against the possibility of a field fire.

Farmers should consider the wind when they harvest, according to Gronbach. He said on days when the wind is blowing 30 to 40 mph farmers should consider doing something other than harvesting.

On days when the wind isn’t blowing so hard, farmers should run their combines into the wind, Gronbach said. He said if a combine is running into the wind and a fire breaks out, the flames will be blown back onto the stubble rather than the standing corn.

”It’s going to burn something you’ve already combined,” he said.

He encouraged farmers to have a chisel plow or disc close to the field while they’re harvesting so that the implement can be quickly put to use to help fight a fire if one starts. Plows and tractors, he said, are great tools for fighting field fires.

”You guys are the best support we have,” Gronbach said. ”We can’t thank you enough when you do come out and help us.”

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