Call for investigation to find out why new headers are sparking fires

Call for investigation to find out why new headers are sparking fires


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Tim Blomeley, Ben Cameron and John Chapman. Pictures: Jeremy Bannister

Tim Blomeley, Ben Cameron and John Chapman. Pictures: Jeremy Bannister

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One farmer is trying to find out why his harvester sparked a fire, despite regular maintenance and cleaning.

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A Victorian farmer whose harvester sparked a fire has urged the Country Fire Authority to investigate why new headers are catching alight, saying things can go wrong despite regular maintenance and cleaning.

Vern Dawson, a former captain of the Skipton CFA brigade who has farmed in the area for more than 30 years, said he had thoroughly checked the header before harvesting and was shocked to see it burst into flames and burn six hectares on January 11. 

Although a fire unit was nearby, Mr Dawson, whose friends pictured above are rallying around him, was unable to save his machine.

His message comes after a series of fires across the region were sparked by farm machinery. 

The incident has dealt a big blow to Mr Dawson, whose farm was severely hit by frost on November 4. 

Many farmers have questioned whether raised sugar levels in crops following the cold snap have created an increase in dust during harvesting, which can spark fires.

“This harvest has been one of the most difficult and emotional periods I have ever experienced in my farming career,” Mr Dawson said. 

“There appears to have been an increase in the number of header fires in the district this year. My guess is that we are creating more dust issues during harvest, possibly as a result of the frost last November.”

CFA volunteers, including Stoneleigh’s John Chapman and Pura’s Tim Blomeley, said many landholders, including Mr Dawson, adhere to the CFA’s grain harvesting guidelines. It recommends when harvesting operations should stop based on wind speed and relative humidity.

January 11 was a day of medium humidity and little wind, Mr Chapman said.

Mr Dawson said the CFA should analyse header fires as they do for vehicle fires.

“The header manufacturer and insurance company will investigate the fire on my property, but I’m not sure how much of that data will go to the CFA,” he said. 

“The CFA has an essential role to collect the data from all fires and report patterns of failure when they occur and find remedies similar to product recalls for household appliances.”

The Courier, Ballarat

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