Why do combines catch fire?

Combines typically catch fire for two reasons, both of which are preventable:

  • Fires can be caused by the ignition of trash and debris (leaves, chaff, stalks, and other organic material) that build up around the engine, exhaust, or other machine parts that get hot during normal operations.
  • Fires can be caused by a leak in a combine’s fuel or hydraulic system. Fuel or hydraulic fluid can ignite when it comes in contact with something hot, such as an engine’s muffler and exhaust system. 

Farm insurers consider combine fires one of the most common and expensive types of fire incidents in production agriculture. Many combine fires are extremely dangerous because they occur in the mechanisms behind the operator’s station. When such fires start, they are difficult to see, and by the time they are visible, they are intense and difficult to extinguish. Combines should be equipped with at least two readily accessible ABC fire extinguishers that an operator can reach and use before a fire becomes uncontrollable.