How to minimise the risk of fires when baling

Farmers and agricultural contractors have been advised to take all precautionary measures possible to minimise the risk of fires when baling.

It is imperative that an air hose is used to blow down a baler at least once a day, according to the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI).

Heat can build up on a round baler due to friction, which is created when dry hay or silage material comes in contact with faulty bearings and baler belts, the FCI said.

Contractors have reported that this friction and overheating can cause bales to ignite; the resulting fires can cause significant damage to balers, and in some cases, even the tractors.

In very hot weather, the FCI advises that an air hose is used to blow down a baler at the end of each day. In especially dry conditions, a baler may also need to be blown down during the day, it added.

Baler, Ford, Silage
Image source: Shane Casey

To reduce the risk of fires, farmers and contractors are advised to prevent crop, chaff, twine and net-wrap material from building up on the machine near potentially hot areas.

Special care must be shown around areas close to bearings, at the ends of baler rollers, and around the slip-clutch, according to the FCI.

Meanwhile, the use of high-pressure power-washing in areas adjacent to bearings on the ends of rollers is advised against – to prevent causing damage to seals.

Baler, Silage
Image source: Shane Casey

There should also be regular checks on bearings on the ends of rollers for early signs of failure; these bearings should be replaced at the first sign of overheating, the FCI said.

If you do need to use a welder, cutting torch or grinder on the baler, be especially careful. First remove any chaff or crop from the area of work.

In very hot conditions, farmers and contractors are advised not to smoke around a baler.

Personal safety a priority

In the past, tractor drivers have been burned trying to deal with baler fires, the FCI said; personal safety must be a priority when an operator encounters a fire.

Baler fires, once started, will quickly ignite, the FCI added. These fires can engulf the entire machine, leaving very little time for the operator to detach the machine from the tractor.

Landini, Baling
Image source: Shane Casey

The FCI recommends that a dry chemical fire extinguisher should be carried on a tractor at all times; many balers presently carry water-type fire extinguishers.

Large-capacity water fire extinguishers are useful because the application of water can cool hot parts to prevent a fire from igniting, the FCI said.