CFA warns of potential risk for haystack fires

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CFA warns of potential risk for haystack fires

Category : Fire Safety

CFA is warning the community about the risk for haystack fires with the combination of wet and hot weather.

CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said with the amount of rain the state has seen this autumn, coupled with some hot and humid weather, haystacks in sheds and outside could self-ignite.

“This is particularly true for areas in the north-east of Victoria where recent flooding has been followed by some warmer weather,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Only last month we saw more than 100 bales self-combust at a property in Yarroweyah, near Cobram.”

Mr Ferguson said as the Bureau of Meteorology has predicted warmer than usual temperatures during the coming months, it is important for farmers to start checking their haystacks now.

“Spontaneous combustion is the leading cause of haystack fires in Victoria. Stacks become dangerous when heating approaches about 70 degrees Celsius and can rapidly reach ignition point,” he said.
“At high temperatures, farmers should seriously consider pulling stacks apart.”

Mr Ferguson said farmers should alert CFA prior to starting this work and take care as bales can suddenly ignite when pulled apart – especially large rectangular bales – due to an influx of oxygen.

“It is also important for those who have had the bottom layer of their haystacks or bales stored in paddocks inundated by recent rain to know that they are still at risk of heating and becoming mouldy which poses a real danger of spontaneous combustion,” he said.
“Haystack fires also pose a great risk to properties because they can spread quickly into the surrounding area and often result in thousands of dollars of damages.”

TO HELP PREVENT HAYSTACK FIRES, FARMERS:

    • Should carefully and regularly monitor haystacks affected by recent rain (in sheds or outside) to see if they are approaching 70 degrees in one of two ways.
    • Place a crowbar or pitchfork deep into a bale for two hours. On removal, if the end that was in the bale is too hot to comfortably touch it would be nearing 70 degrees.
    • To get a more accurate indicator of heat further into the stack, use a pipe of 2.5 to 3 metres in length and about 20 millimetres in diameter. Flatten one end and drill two to three millimetre diameter holes about 75 millimetres above the flattened end.
    • Drive the flattened end into the stack and lower a small thermometer to the end of the probe using light wire as string may burn or break. Retrieve thermometer after about 15 minutes.

For further information please follow the link to Hay and Fire Safety or visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au. If you would like a free copy of our ‘On the Land’ booklet (agricultural fire management guidelines), please call the Victorian Bushfire Information line on 1800 240 667.

For more information contact: CFA Media (03) 5330 3124 (24hrs) or visit www.cfaconnect.net.au