Combine, field fires mar harvest

Staff writer

Howard Collett had just finished harvest Tuesday night, was putting up his auger and shutting down his Gleaner combine when he noticed a fire.

“I looked out and saw the black smoke and thought, “This is bad,” he said.

Collett had time to get his combine out of the dry wheat stubble, away from buildings, and into a bean field before flames engulfed his machine.

“I sure jumped out of there quick,” he said.

The responding Marion Fire Department estimated that the Gleaner was a total loss. Collett does not agree.

“It still has wheels on it, the header and cab weren’t touched, so I think there’s some value left,” he said.

Collett says he has been farming since 1955 and this was his first machinery fire.

“This is my first Gleaner, too,” he said. “Maybe it’s related.”

Collett is not the only farmer to have a problem with fires this harvest. Statewide, farmers are starting stubble and grass fires accidentally as they bring in their crops.

According to Marion Fire Chief Mike Regnier, this was the second combine to catch fire Tuesday.

Over the past week, county first responders answered four calls involving farm fires. Last Thursday, two fires were reported.

At 4:50 a.m. fire and ambulances responded to a barn fire in Lincolnville. Later that day, Goessel and Hillsboro fire departments responded to an out-of-control stubble fire at 110th and Goldenrod Roads. They responded to a similar call Saturday evening at 120th and Eagle Roads.

Monday, in Durham, a pickup truck caught fire while driving through a wheat field.

Collett says he is usually overly cautious about causing fires.

“I must have got into some tough stubble or something,” he said. “I don’t know what I got into but it sure caught quickly.”

With warm and dry conditions and no break in the forecast, farmers will need to be extra vigilant when it comes to fires.

“It was a good thing I had my phone on me,” Collett said. “I never have my phone on me. I guess I need to start keeping it handy.”

Collett said after today’s accident he would look over his insurance policy and get to work finding a new combine.

“Nothing else I can do, and it’s not like I can afford to go without one,” he said.

 

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