Tatura Country Fire Authority Brigade was called into action to a haystack fire on Langham Rd, Dhurringile, that destroyed a shed recently and is calling on farmers to minimise the risk of haystack fires this summer.
Tatura Fire Brigade second lieutenant Alan Tyson said hay-related fires were one of the most common call outs the brigade had to attend and they could be quite time-consuming because they took several days to be extinguished.
‘‘It can be quite heartbreaking seeing the damage and financial pain they can cause for farmers,’’ he said.
‘‘There are a range of causes, such as sparks from machinery and equipment, embers from nearby burn-offs, or bushfires and lightning strikes, but the leading cause is from spontaneous combustion.
‘‘If the hay is too green or the hay becomes damp before, during or after bailing, a complex series of biological and chemical processes may cause the hay to heat.
‘‘Once temperatures reach about 70°C they may then increase rapidly to the point of spontaneous ignition, about 180°C.’’
Mr Tyson said they encouraged farmers to regularly monitor all haystacks for signs that the hay was heating by using a temperature probe or a crowbar.
‘‘If you see steam rising from haystacks, see condensation or corrosion under hayshed roofing, mould in or on bales, smell unusual odours or see a section of the hay slumping it means it is heating up,’’ he said.
‘‘To minimise the risk, make sure the hay is fully cured and at the recommended moisture content before baling. This changes for each type of crop and bale.’’
Mr Tyson encouraged the use of a correctly calibrated moisture meter to check hay moisture levels throughout the baling process.
‘‘It is important to remember that just one damp bale is enough to ignite a haystack, so make sure you protect all bales from rain, leaking roofs and spouts and runoff,’’ he said.
‘‘If some bales become damp, they should be stored separately and closely monitored.’’
Other tips include making sure the haystacks are limited in size and have enough airflow to allow heat and moisture to escape.
‘‘It is important to know the history and moisture content of the hay you purchase and store it away from possible sources of ignition, such as roadsides, fuels or chemicals,’’ Mr Tyson said.