Hay fire warn­ing is­sued

The Tatura Guardian - - Community - By De­clan Martin

Tatura Coun­try Fire Author­ity Brigade was called into ac­tion to a haystack fire on Lang­ham Rd, Dhur­ringile, that de­stroyed a shed re­cently and is call­ing on farm­ers to min­imise the risk of haystack fires this sum­mer.

Tatura Fire Brigade sec­ond lieu­tenant Alan Tyson said hay-re­lated fires were one of the most com­mon call outs the brigade had to at­tend and they could be quite time-con­sum­ing be­cause they took sev­eral days to be ex­tin­guished.

‘‘It can be quite heart­break­ing see­ing the dam­age and fi­nan­cial pain they can cause for farm­ers,’’ he said.

‘‘There are a range of causes, such as sparks from ma­chin­ery and equip­ment, em­bers from nearby burnoffs, or bush­fires and light­ning strikes, but the lead­ing cause is from spon­ta­neous com­bus­tion.

‘‘If the hay is too green or the hay be­comes damp be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter bail­ing, a com­plex se­ries of bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal pro­cesses may cause the hay to heat.

‘‘Once tem­per­a­tures reach about 70°C they may then in­crease rapidly to the point of spon­ta­neous about 180°C.’’

Mr Tyson said they en­cour­aged farm­ers to reg­u­larly mon­i­tor all haystacks for signs that the hay was heat­ing by us­ing a tem­per­a­ture probe or a crow­bar.

‘‘If you see steam ris­ing from haystacks, see con­den­sa­tion or cor­ro­sion un­der hayshed roof­ing, mould in or on bales, smell un­usual

ig­ni­tion, odours or see a sec­tion of the hay slump­ing it means it is heat­ing up,’’ he said.

‘‘To min­imise the risk, make sure the hay is fully cured and at the rec­om­mended mois­ture con­tent be­fore bal­ing. This changes for each type of crop and bale.’’

Mr Tyson en­cour­aged the use of a cor­rectly cal­i­brated mois­ture me­ter to check hay mois­ture lev­els through­out the bal­ing process.

‘‘It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that just one damp bale is enough to ig­nite a haystack, so make sure you pro­tect all bales from rain, leak­ing roofs and spouts and runoff,’’ he said.

‘‘If some bales be­come damp, they should be stored sep­a­rately and closely mon­i­tored.’’

Other tips in­clude mak­ing sure the haystacks are lim­ited in size and have enough air­flow to al­low heat and mois­ture to es­cape.

‘‘It is im­por­tant to know the his­tory and mois­ture con­tent of the hay you pur­chase and store it away from pos­si­ble sources of ig­ni­tion, such as road­sides, fu­els or chem­i­cals,’’ Mr Tyson said.

Blaze: Tatura CFA was in ac­tion early on Sunday, Novem­ber 26, to con­tain a hay shed fire off Lang­ham Rd, Dhur­ringile.

Dam­ag­ing: The still burn­ing re­mains of the hay shed, hours af­ter a fire broke out.

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