Workshops prepare growers to avoid and manage harvester fires

Author: | Date: 10 Sep 2018

image of Ben White
Harvester fire specialist Ben White (pictured) will be headlining the workshops, providing advice to growers on steps they can take to avoid harvester fires, including harvesting hygiene, equipment maintenance and harvester modifications. Photo: Melissa Powell

Preparation to avoid harvester fires will be the focus of a series of four Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) technical workshops across Victoria and South Australia in the first week of October.

The workshops at Swan Hill, Kaniva, Clare and Cummins will address a wide range of topics to ensure growers are prepared for the serious threat harvester fires pose, even after dry growing seasons.

Harvester fire specialist Ben White will be headlining the workshops, providing advice to growers on steps they can take to avoid harvester fires, including harvesting hygiene, equipment maintenance and harvester modifications.

“Unfortunately, a low yielding season doesn’t mean growers won’t see harvester fires, and the worst thing would be for growers to get complacent and put themselves in danger,” he says.

Mr White recommends all growers develop a harvester fire plan as a critical part of harvest preparations.

“The potential losses from a fire are enormous. Harvester fires can burn through entire crops, farms, neighbourhoods and communities, causing infrastructure losses, serious burns or even result in fatalities,” he says.

“With that on the line, every grower should have a plan, which is discussed with their whole team, on how to reduce the risk and respond to harvester fires.”

About seven percent of harvesters start a fire each year, in a range of crop types including cereals and pulses, so there’s a good chance that every grain grower will experience a harvester fire at some point.

Along with Mr White, representatives from the Country Fire Authority, Victorian Farmers Federation, the Country Fire Service, Grain Producers SA and the GRDC will share information on fire danger indexes, grain harvesting guidelines, fighting fires, and communication during a fire.

But workshop facilitator Belinda Cay says there’s more to harvester fire preparedness than just preventing fires.

“It is essential that every grower prepares themselves for the risk of fire, not only from the practical perspective of trying to avoid fires, but also being mentally prepared to manage after a fire,” she says.

Ms Cay speaks from personal experience, having lost her home in the 2015 Pinery fire, and will discuss her own strategies for coping along with Eyre Peninsula grower Steve Whillas who was burnt out in the 2005 Wangary fire.

“The mental impact of fire is more significant than most people realise, so the workshops will cover coping and handling stress after a fire,” Ms Cay says.

Landmark’s Kris Nelson will also help growers assess their insurance coverage and maintain appropriate record-keeping for insurance coverage after a fire, and growers who have experience with harvester fires will share their stories.

Workshops will be at:

  • Swan Hill (Swan Hill Football-Netball Club) on Tuesday, October 2,from 9am to 2pm
  • Kaniva (Kaniva Community Hub) on Wednesday, October 3, from 9am to 2pm
  • Clare (Clare Sports Club) on Thursday, October 4, from 9am to 2pm
  • Cummins (Cummins Bowling Club) on Friday, October 5, from 9am to 2pm

Full workshop programs are available at www.agcommunicators.com.au/events.

Enquiries can be directed to Rebecca Barr at AgCommunicators via email rebecca.barr@agcommunicators.com.au or phone 0402 788 526.

Contact Details

For Interviews

Darren Arney, GRDC
Phone 0447 877 178

Randall Wilksch, GRDC
Phone 0437 769 098

Contact

Sharon Watt, GRDC
Phone 0409 675 100

GRDC Project code: 180824

sharon.watt@grdc.com.au