Fires arise in cotton harvester parts due to a buildup of debris that generates heat. If the operator catches it in the smoldering mass phase, it can be a relatively minor problem that is solved quickly. However, failing to pay attention to the possibility of fires can result in serious harvest loss and worker injury. Here are effective measures for avoiding and containing cotton picker fires:
- Stay ahead on cleaning: In order to avoid fires in the first place, stay on top of cleaning and servicing the picker. The buildup of lint, seeds and oil allows for ready fuel if an engine gets too hot or friction increases during the picking process. While this is by no means foolproof, it will eliminate the most common causes of cotton picker fires.
- Watch for odors: Cotton and its oils have a distinct smell when they are burning. If you have someone new on your team, burn a small amount of cotton in a controlled setting so the odor is recognizable if it arises. That way, you and anyone working for you will know immediately when it is time to stop the harvester and find the source of the smoldering so it can be stopped.
- Make communication possible: Harvesters should be equipped with cell phones or radios in case of trouble. One small fire can burn up a field, so anyone operating the harvester needs the means to get help quickly.
- Clear baskets: People are frequently reluctant to empty the baskets, as that means losing part of the crop. However, this is also how fires are missed and become out-of-control conflagrations. Make it clear that it is preferable to lose some cotton rather than burn up an entire field due to fires left undetected. A full basket blocks the view to hydraulic hoses and fuel lines, which may be the source of a fire. With seed cotton still on the picker, that can be a disaster waiting to happen.
- Keep fire extinguishers nearby: For flash lint and seed-based fires, use a water-based fire extinguisher. Other types of fires need a Type ABC extinguisher. When using these, point them at the base of the flames and use short bursts. Spraying long blasts can actually spread the fire to the field. Replace all used extinguishers, as these are one-use items.
- If in doubt—stop: If you do not find the source of the fire or it appears that the fire arose from a mechanical deficiency, it is best to stop picking for the day. The loss from a fire will always be greater than that resulting from a slightly delayed harvest. Sometimes the best course of action is to bring in the picker and give it a more thorough inspection in case fuel or hydraulic lines are the culprits.
Good maintenance of cotton harvester parts can prevent fires, and you need a good supplier to assure quality maintenance. Contact Certi-Pik, USA to find the parts you need and enjoy many safe cotton harvests in the future.