Sunflower dust is higher in oil and static electricity, which means it clings more than other crop dust. Sunflower growers need good air circulation around their combine engine so dust doesn’t build up and catch fire.
This burned out shell is a John Deere 9860 combine, built in 2006 and owned by Fiasco Farms of Melita, Man. Victor Clark, son of Fiasco owner Alan Clark, was combining sunflowers in October when his air filter warning light came on. Victor turned off the threshing unit but left the engine running while he went to see what was wrong. He
was just starting down the ladder when he saw smoke. He got the fire extinguisher and discharged it on the fire. It didn’t help.
Alan says they don’t know what actually caused the fire. They blow down the combine for dust buildup once or twice a day to prevent fires like this, but whether dust buildup was the reason or whether some other malfunction triggered the fire, he doesn’t know. He did say that
perhaps turning off the engine might have helped. “I wonder if maybe a fuel line burst, and with the engine running, fuel kept getting pumped onto the fire, but we just don’t know for sure,” Alan says. “I’m just glad Victor got the hell out of there. It only took three minutes to go from no smoke to an out-of-control fire.”
Fiasco Farms’ insurance covered the cost of replacing the combine. It also covered the cost of bringing in another unit while they waited for a new one to come available.
Thanks to Dwayne Jones for the photo.