Avoid hay fires

By Country News

With farmers cutting more hay to recover costs from a below-average growing season, the Country Fire Authority is reminding landowners to take additional care when cutting, baling and storing hay this season.

Spontaneous combustion is caused by bacteria that grows within green or damp hay and produces a chemical reaction that causes the hay bale to heat.

‘‘Correct storage is important along with monitoring stacks for heat in terms of preventing hay fires,’’ CFA operations officer Peter Dedman said.

‘‘If your hay is green or not fully cured at the time of baling, you could be setting yourself up for trouble right from the word go,’’ he said.

‘‘When it comes to storage there are a number of things you can do.

‘‘Protect your haystacks from water leaks, rain and moisture, but also pay attention to airflow by not stacking bales right to the top of the shed.’’

Mr Dedman also advised farmers to store hay in separate stacks and keep them smaller rather than larger in size.

‘‘That way you’ll avoid large losses if a fire does occur,’’ he said.

‘‘By the same token you should avoid storing vehicles, machinery and valuable equipment in your shed along with the hay bales.

‘‘And of course continuous monitoring for heat is a good habit to get into, especially in the event of a thunderstorm or rain showers.

‘‘My advice would be to use a range of ways to detect heat rather than just a probe.’’

Tips for preventing hay fires or unnecessary losses:

■Allow for airflow by not stacking hay right up against the roof of the shed.

■Store hay in multiple locations or stacks to avoid large losses if a fire occurs.

■Never carry out work such as welding or grinding near haystacks.

■Maintain a break around stacks.

■Monitor stacks regularly and separate if overheating.