Few things are more detrimental to your cotton harvest than a fire. It can destroy crops and equipment alike. Cotton picking is vulnerable to fire because the amount of dry material and friction creates a natural environment for it—unless you take precautions. Here are six good practices to help maintain cotton picker parts so they do not produce conditions for a fire:
- Clean parts thoroughly: Many fires result from debris building up on spindles. Lint, seed and oil from cotton makes for ready fuel as the engine warms up and friction looks to start a spark. Keeping parts clean removes this buildup so the fire hazard decreases. Good cleaning routines eliminates the most common causes of cotton fires. Set a routine and stick to it so your harvest completes successfully.
- Keep baskets clear: This is often a reluctant practice because clearing baskets results in crop loss. Allowing them to continue building up, though, also provides ready fuel for fires, not unlike seeds, lint and oil on spindles. In fact, when you fail to clear baskets, any fire that starts will be difficult to contain because the flames will move to them next. Also, full baskets block the view to the hydraulic hoses and fuel lines, which will make it difficult to neutralize a fire before it starts. Understand that the loss of some of the harvest is preferable to losing all of it in a fire. Keep them clear as insurance against worse losses.
- Stop immediately if you smell burning: A fortunate element in cotton fires is the distinct smell they emit when burning. This allows you to detect fires early. If you have a new worker operating your harvester, burn a small amount of cotton in a controlled setting so they can recognize the odor. That way, if they detect it on the job, they know to stop the harvester immediately and start fire suppression methods.
- Communicate: There should be a way to call for help in case a fire gets out of control. Equip harvesters with cell phones and radios to reduce delays when help is required.
- Never harvest without a fire extinguisher: In addition to communication devices, equip harvesters with fire extinguishers. Keep two types: a water-based one for lint and seed-based fires in the spindles, and a Type ABC for anything else. The best way to use an extinguisher is to point it toward the base of the flames and make short bursts. Do not spray long blasts; that will push the fire into the field. If used, replace the fire extinguisher. These are one-use items.
- Stop when necessary: If you see or smell all the signs of a fire, but cannot find the source, stop the harvest for the day. It could be a mechanical deficiency (which is also dangerous), or the fire hazard is somewhere that is not immediately accessible. It is better to delay a harvest slightly than lose it all in a fire.
Certi-Pik, USA offers a complete catalog of cotton picker parts to repair your equipment and get ready for the next cotton picking season. Contact us today if you are ready to place an order.