BEAVER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) – On Tuesday and Wednesday, combines being used by two different farmers caught fire. One was in Mahoning County and another was in Trumbull County. The issue brought up the question of the frequency of these types of fires during harvest season.
Beaver Township farmer Mike Lyda watched Thursday evening as fellow farmer Lawrence Vanpelt and his son came to his rescue and harvested his field of soybeans.
“I was never worried that we weren’t going to get it harvested. Friends, neighbors, everybody tried to pitch in and help where they can,” Lyda said.
On Tuesday, Lyda’s brother and nephew were harvesting soybeans when their 1994 combine caught fire.
“I got a call about 5 or 5:15 that said, ‘Hey, the combine’s on fire. It’s done,'” Lyda recalled.
Then on Wednesday in Newton Township, a combine from the 1980s was also destroyed by fire. That was two combine fires in two days.
Anita Metheny, with the state fire marshal’s office, says the number of fires depends on how good the harvest year is.
“Over the last five years, we’ve had roughly 1,180 fires. On average, we are seeing about 200, 210 a year, depending on how good the harvest year is,” Metheny said.
Ward Campbell farms in Western Mahoning County. Twenty years ago, his combine caught fire from static electricity, igniting all the dry dust and dirt that a combine collects.
“It gets behind the pullies and causes friction. Sometimes brakes don’t release right, causes a fire.,” Campbell said. “It’s not uncommon,”
Combine fires are so common that most farmers carry fire extinguishers, which if used quickly can limit any damage.
“Some people you get to the far end of the field and realize they are on fire. It’s hard to get them out,” Campbell said.
The state marshal’s office knows of no one dying in a combine fire, but firefighters, especially those in farming communities, are trained for them.
“Make sure your hydraulic lines are generally maintained. Make sure that those hoses don’t have pinholes in them. Make sure it’s not rubbing up against anything — that friction can cause those as well, and then just cleaning out the combine completely when you’re done,” Metheny said.
Back at Mike Lyda’s farm, with the help of the Vanpelt family, all the soybeans have been harvested. The corn is next. Lyda will need help with that, too.
“I’ve had, I want to say, three, four or five people reach out. Local people that we knew or knew of, whether they been in that situation before or not, they’ve been in a pinch. Neighbors come together and help,” Lyda said.