About three years in the past, the day earlier than the expected first frost of the season, Bledsoe County farmer and retired agriculture trainer Bobby Loyd was baling late-fall hay with plans to wrap it for silage. On at the present time, he mowed till round dinner when he shut the tractor off for a brief meal break. As he settled again into his seat to choose up the place he had left off, the tractor wouldn’t begin. “I believed that was odd,” he says. However, trying to get again to work, he jumped it off together with his pickup truck, hooked it to the baler and began baling.
The oddity nonetheless behind his thoughts, he determined to verify and see if the tractor would begin if he turned it again off. “I baled possibly 15 bales and shut it off,” he says. “This time, after I jumped it off the battery was so low that I couldn’t even get the ability takeoff to have interaction,” he says.
Considering it was a difficulty with the battery, he went into city and bought a brand new one. Then, after changing the battery, he was capable of function one other half-hour after which he pulled up, stopped and obtained on one other tractor in order that he may start bunching hay, readying it for wrapping at daylight the subsequent morning.
By this time, it was darkish, and Loyd was on the reverse finish of the sphere ending up for the day. He regarded up and noticed the opposite tractor that he’d parked in the course of the sphere with a light-weight beneath it that clearly shouldn’t be there. Reaching for the hearth extinguisher on the tractor he was stacking with and driving throughout the sphere on the most pace that he may nonetheless keep on, Loyd raced throughout the sphere.
As he drew close to, he noticed that the flames had been already blazing up beneath the windshield on the very finish of the motor of his parked tractor. “I sprayed the hearth extinguisher empty up beneath the tractor,” he says. At one level, Loyd believed that he had succeeded in saving the tractor. “However then it puffed again up,” he says. Grabbing the hearth extinguisher out of the tractor that was on hearth, Loyd tried once more.
He was unable to make any headway this time.
A passerby arrived on the scene, asking how he would possibly assist. Loyd despatched him to retrieve one other hearth extinguisher that he stored saved in his pickup truck which was additionally parked within the area. Whereas he was away, Loyd tried to unhook the baler. Sadly, his would-be helper, having been unable to find the extinguisher, returned empty-handed. So as a substitute, Loyd requested for his assist in unhooking the baler. He hoped to take a series and drag the 2 aside. Sadly, the tractor and baler had been linked with a do-it-yourself pin and the tractor was parked in a little bit of a bind. “I had the jack down and the strain up,” he says. “I couldn’t get them aside.”
The tractor hearth progressed rapidly. Though Loyd had additionally referred to as 911, by the point hearth responders arrived solely a short while later, the gear was misplaced. “The fenders had been melting and had been dropping on two large tires stuffed with fluid,” he says. “I instructed [the passerby] that it wasn’t value getting killed over. Let’s simply again up and let it burn.” The tractor and baler had been whole losses.
Although he’ll by no means know for positive, wanting again on the occasions as they occurred, Loyd believes that the tractor hearth was brought on by a brief within the battery cable. Within the model of tractor he was driving, the principle battery cable comes on the best aspect of the motor and crosses excessive of it going to the starter. “The one factor that is smart to me is that I one way or the other obtained a brief [in the cable] and that was what was draining the battery,” he says.
Loyd considers himself lucky. “I by no means park a baler within the area,” he says. “However as a result of I used to be on the lookout for these different bales, I hadn’t pulled this tractor again within the shed but.”
Had it not been for this slight change to his routine, there very doubtless would have been a barn hearth as nicely. Loyd additionally considers himself blessed that, as is usually the case with tractor and gear fires, little of his crop was misplaced to the hearth because it was confined to the realm round his tractor and baler.
Causes of Gear Fires
Whereas not essentially foreseeable, Loyd’s story illustrates the significance of fireside security and prevention. Mike Mathews, area service supervisor with TriGreen Gear, says that whereas he doesn’t see a number of tractor and gear fires, people who he does see are memorable. TriGreen, a John Deere dealership with shops in McMinnville, Winchester, Manchester, Mt. Juliet and Cookeville, Tennessee, in addition to in Alabama, serves many farmers within the Sequatchie Valley space and past.
In Mathews’s expertise, whereas fires may also be brought on by electrical fires such because the tractor hearth skilled by Loyd, lightning strikes and static electrical energy, most of these fires that he sees are thermal occasions.
“We now have some seasonal farmers, like your hay and cattle farmers, that put sure gear within the shed and it sits for months at a time ready for the subsequent hay crop to be prepared to reap,” Mathews says.
In a few of these cases, birds will construct a nest on prime of the engine and because the exhaust heats up when the tractor goes to the sphere, the nest ignites. Different instances, he says, bearings can go down and the shopper doesn’t catch it in time. “It would warmth to create a thermal occasion from crop mud or chafe,” Mathews says.
As for balers, whether or not spherical or sq., to stop mildew producers bale their hay when it has a low moisture content material. “Usually, a bearing will run in all probability across the 130- to 150-degree vary,” Mathews says. “Below regular circumstances, when it [the bearing] will get a number of put on or begins to fail, you possibly can see that stand up into the 250-plus-degree vary.”
At that temperature, the dry crop residue, not the hay itself, will get into sure areas towards these bearings and warmth up and ignite.
To forestall all these fires, Mathews recommends pre- and/or post-season inspections carried out by a dealership. “We now have a winter service particular,” he says. “We encourage our clients to do an end-of-season or preseason inspection. We do it at a reduced charge. Usually, we do these in our gradual season the place we will provide a greater worth for the shopper.”
As a part of the inspection course of, belts and chains are eliminated, shafts are turned, bearings are checked, they usually pay attention with skilled ears for noise to find out how tough bearings are in play with the intention to catch them earlier than they go unhealthy. As nicely, bearings are packed and different forms of preventative upkeep are carried out. Whereas all these inspections can appear costly, they’re nicely well worth the funding by way of hearth prevention and downtime throughout the harvest season.
Mathews makes use of the instance of the dealership’s hay clients. “They don’t get to schedule after they harvest,” he says. “It relies upon a lot on the climate and their work schedule. Loads of instances, our hay producers and smaller cattle farmers are ready the place they need to do it after they get off work throughout the week or on the weekends. They’ve obtained a decent window due to the climate and different elements they haven’t any management over.”
It’s not simply the hazard of fireside that the dealership promotes inspections. “It’s the benefit of getting the machine able to go to the sphere while you want it,” Mathews says. Nevertheless, thermal occasions are an issue. “For those who don’t keep your machine and the bearing fails and it catches the baler on hearth, then that’s going to hold over to your crop,” he says.
The Operator’s Function
Inspections and upkeep apart, operators with open station tractors may also play a job in hearth prevention by listening and looking ahead to indicators of apparatus failure. Nevertheless, due to their facilities and the actual fact that they’re enclosed inside a cab, operators of cab tractors may be at a slight drawback. These operators could not hear the machine run so that they don’t catch that slight squeal or really feel that little little bit of vibration that would point out some kind of apparatus failure.
To this finish, TriGreen encourages house owners that could be new to gear or house owners or operators who could also be stepping up from older to newer gear to attend the numerous buyer occasions and clinics the dealership presents. Throughout these occasions, clients are inspired to take proactive measures like taking a leaf blower to blow crop residue off the machines each time they end utilizing them.
“There have been instances the place a bearing may be within the strategy of failing, they [the producer] end for the afternoon and get into their truck and drive away. Then two hours later they get a name that their gear is on hearth,” Mathews says.
Performing this sort of precautionary measure may assist stop this from taking place.
The Producer’s Function
Mathews defined that as a preventative measure, most producers do a superb job earlier than they launch a product to market to verify for untimely failures or any defects in materials or workmanship. In addition they intently monitor any hearth occasions to make sure that it had nothing to do with the manufacturing strategy of the gear.
As nicely, balers and another forms of gear typically include water hearth extinguishers that may be refilled and repressurized by the proprietor. It’s much less frequent for tractors to return geared up with these, so it’s at all times a good suggestion to get considered one of your personal.
A Expensive Prevalence
Whereas a excessive share of apparatus fires usually are not a complete loss, because of diligent operators, they’ll show pricey. “The cleaner you retain the machine, the much less likelihood you might have of an occasion,” Mathews says. “Usually, of people who we see which are a complete loss, I hear feedback indicating, for instance, a hydraulic leak that the operator was conscious of and didn’t take the time to repair. The leak allowed the crop residue to turn out to be saturated with hydraulic oil and ,in the event that they get a hotspot from a bearing, it lights up.”
Fortunately, most producers have insurance coverage, and Mathews advises that when you don’t presently have it, spend money on some. However, whereas insurance coverage could cowl most of your loss by way of gear, it doesn’t cowl the ensuing downtime. Mathews’ greatest piece of recommendation by way of hearth prevention and security is to maintain your gear clear and be meticulous about upkeep. And, ultimately, saving your self ought to at all times be your prime precedence.
Although Loyd did have insurance coverage protection on his gear valued at what he thought it was value, he did have bother changing it. For instance, his tractor, although used, was just a few years previous and in good working order. He struggled to seek out one thing comparable to exchange each it and his baler with the out there insurance coverage funds.
He continues to observe hearth security and prevention measures discovered from his experiences as an educator and a farmer and hopes by no means once more to expertise one other gear hearth.
This text initially appeared within the July/August 2023 challenge of Interest Farms journal.