DESPITE a quite mild start to the bushfire season, the Country Fire Service is encouraging croppers to be vigilant about machinery maintenance and hygiene during harvest, particularly as the weather warms up in the next fortnight.
Volunteer firefighters have been called to a handful of harvest-related incidents in the past fortnight, including a crop fire at Dowlingville on the Yorke Peninsula, which resulted in the loss of a header worth $1 million.
"Thankfully, firefighters with the assistance of farm fire units, saved a significant amount of crop yet to be harvested, estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars," CFS state duty commander Brenton Hastie said.
There was another crop fire at Verran near Arno Bay last week, causing $150,000 damage, while a header fire was reported in Warnertown on Monday.
Mr Hastie said the number of incidents so far this harvest had been "historically low", which he put down to milder weather, increased focus on maintenance and fire safety awareness overall.
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"There is a trend of reduced harvester fires, but the fires so far have still done a lot of damage quite quickly, which is a concern," he said.
"Thankfully we have yet to see fire ban conditions across the state, but the weather pattern is changing over the next fortnight.
"Hopefully these good crops are taken off before we get to that point."
Mr Hastie said sometimes operators could be doing all the right things, but a fire still occurred.
"We know the vast majority of operators do the right thing and are operating within the SA Grain Harvesting Code of Practice, we just encourage croppers to continually check conditions, focus on service, maintenance, and machine hygiene, and have a well-maintained and fully-operational farm fire-fighting unit on hand where harvesting or grain handling operations are occurring," he said.
LOSING a header during harvest to a suspected electrical fault fire a few years ago was such a stressful time for the Fogden family at Nangari.
"We had only just started on our wheat, not even halfway through harvest, so it was not a good time," Peter Fogden said.
"We were lucky to find a second-hand header locally to get going again quickly."
But the incident resulted in the family instilling a number of fire safety measures on-farm to reduce the risk of it happening again.
"We do a lot of header maintenance daily now - way more than we used to - making sure they are spotless at the end of every day," he said.
The Fogdens finished harvesting their 1000 hectares this week, which comprised mainly of barley, with some wheat and rye.
They had just 100 millimetres of rain for the year. The barley reached nearly 1 tonne/ha and made F1, while wheat was 0.9t/ha mainly made H1.
"That small amount of rain managed to come just at the right time - we're happy just to be harvesting anything," Mr Fogden said.
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