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Hay Master (Supposedly)
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Second baler fire in my round baling career. Sledge follower roll bearing went out.

I guess it wasn’t truly a baler fire but was very close. The bale that had been in the chamber burned, and there was burning material setting on this roller, plus a belt had a small fire on it.

The keys to prevent a baler loss in this situation is to get the bale out of the chamber (in crop residues the bale needs to be wrapped or it won’t exit the baler cleanly, and also have a 2-1/2 gallon water fire extinguisher at hand. Lack of either would have resulted in a destroyed baler, and possibly the tractor too.

Once the bale is out of the chamber, leave the baler door open to allow access to any burning material, and hot components.

Our water extinguisher had a small amount of dish soap added to it, and the added soap really helps.





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I agree adding liquid soap to water fire extinguisher really helps to control flames. I still remember the day my rd baler burnt over 25 yrs ago & I've experienced several smoldering hay events while rd baling. All brands/colors of rd balers have been known to catch fire & burn.
 

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it Is hard to determine what to do when you see smoke. Some say not to raise the tailgate and have had confirmation from one unfortunate person that as soon as the tailgate was raised the baler erupted into flames. The assumption being air reached the flames when the tailgate was raised.

I know of two where the baler was close enough to a pond that the operators backed the baler into the pond.

Another person saw flames and did not feel he could unhook from the baler so he called the local vol fire dept and drove in circles which kept the heat and flames away from the tractor and he saved the tractor.

My conclusion is if you see smoke, get the bale out. If you see flames, save the tractor. Once flaming it is difficult for an extinguisher to put the fire out once the belts are going.
 

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I have asked operators if it was better to remove the safety chain from the tractor once they reach the field In case of fire, or take the chance of the baler getting away in the field. My understanding is once flames erupt the heat can be unbearable at the hitch. Pull the pin and forget everything else if need be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
it Is hard to determine what to do when you see smoke. Some say not to raise the tailgate and have had confirmation from one unfortunate person that as soon as the tailgate was raised the baler erupted into flames. The assumption being air reached the flames when the tailgate was raised.
As I have been through this twice, I will say emphatically GET THE BALE OUT! Once the bale is engulfed in flames, there is really only one way to extinguish it. It will take a large amount of water, i.e. fire truck.

If the bale remains in the chamber and becomes engulfed, the baler is done, toast. There is no hope that a 2-1/2 gallon extinguisher can quench the flames of an engulfed bale. Been there and proved that. Not even 2 water extinguishers can do it, so it’s not even worth trying.

On the other hand, once the bale has exited the baler, what ever flaming material remains in the baler can be pretty easily extingished. A few short bursts of water will put out a lot of fire, even burning belt(s).

In this last incident, there was more fire in the baler when I got there than there was on the bale. In fact, had I got right to the bale and baler about 30 seconds sooner, I could have saved the bale and the baler. The baler had open flame sooner, but there was far less fuel and less easily ignitable fuel. It took mere seconds for the flame to spread on the side of the bale, and mere seconds to soak the flaming material in the chamber.

We just left the bale burn, under supervision. As I noted, it take a massive amount of water to fully quench a burning bale, and then you are left with a mess of soaked, half burned material. I had a wheel loader come out to stand by until the bale was mostly burned down. When we has our first baler related fire, there was more wind and more risk of fire spreading, so I also called out a wheel loader, and had the operator cover the bale with dirt to suppress the flame and blowing embers until the fire department came.

One other thing to note. Even if the initial fire in the baler is extinguished, be alert for reignition. This did happen to us as I did not initially see exactly what was the source of heat for ignition. There was enough heat there to reignite some chaff and the belt that was right at the end of the (very!) hot roller. Once I determined what was hot, the water extinguisher cooled it down to a safe temp quite quickly.

One other note. If there are going to be multiple machine operating in a field, two way radios of some kind are very useful. In a situation like this, a cell phone is much too slow and awkward. We are on our second season of using Midland X Talker walkie talkies, and they serve us very well, having better range than my brother's Vertex 2 way radios.
 

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I agree with Gearclash if smoke in baler is detected open tailgate & get bale out of chamber. Aim tractor/baler into the oncoming wind to help blow flames/heat away tractor. Back when my baler erupted in flames I thought I had fire extinguished three(3) times. After water in extinguisher ran out & I saw some belts flaming I unhooked my 4255 tractor & saved it for some more years of hay baling. I recommend disconnected safety chain upon entering field because bif baler catches fire things start happening VERY FAST!
 

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One more thought: I was using a hardened steel bolt, double nutted with locking pin, as my hitch pin UNTIL I had a bearing go out.

Now I use a quick disconnect hitch pin such that, if all else fails, I can pull the pin and get the tractor away from the fire. Not going to worry about the hydraulic hoses---they'll pop out.

I like the idea of disconnecting the safety chain upon entering the field, but I don't think I'll do that on the really hilly fields.

BTW: After my baler fire, I was paid 75% of the damages by my insurance company. BUT...I was told that had it burned completely, I would have gotten paid for a completely new baler! I wonder what would have happened to my insurance premium if I had done that?

Ralph
 

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Another easy thing to do is use a leaf blower and blow the chaff off as often as possible (I do it at the end of everyday minimum and sometimes I do it during the day if I have a few minutes of downtime). A baler that is packed full of fine chaff makes it that much harder to extinguish a fire. The cleaner the baler the less fine fuel their is to ignite.

Neighbor bales all season long and never cleans a thing off. There will be chaff packed solid everywhere on that machine probably adding 500lbs of weight to the baler. Well when he had a bearing go out and start all that dust/chaff on fire there was no hope of saving that thing. Luckily he got the pin pulled in time.
 

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Another easy thing to do is use a leaf blower and blow the chaff off as often as possible (I do it at the end of everyday minimum and sometimes I do it during the day if I have a few minutes of downtime). A baler that is packed full of fine chaff makes it that much harder to extinguish a fire. The cleaner the baler the less fine fuel their is to ignite.
I agree. IMO, A leaf blower is a basic baler maintenance tool--just as important as a grease gun. I blow mine out when I'm done every time I bale. Chaff also collects heat and grease -- causes extra bearing and chain wear.

Ralph
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I’m not going to discourage anyone from cleaning their baler -- but I find they don’t stay cleaned for very long. Half an hour of operation and my round balers are as full of chaff and fines as ever. And there are times they run for 12 hours that way.

I will say that the latest NH round balers are pretty good about not accumulating trash -- it takes less time to clean them up than the previous generation.
 

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They don't stay clean long but getting a layer off helps. For me if I let it accumulate it just gets packed tighter and denser with every bump I go over. If I clean it everyday it is rather fluffy and easy to clean off. Let it go a week and its compacted into near concrete and difficult to remove.
 

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I have often contemplated how to deal with a round baler fire. This is really good info. I have been cleaning my baler after most uses but it can build up quickly. Never thought about carrying a leaf blower as I had been using air compressor, but I think I will try that since my wife bought a cordless version. I also have an undersized extinguisher so will go with the larger 2.5 gallon water based extinguisher with soap. I have a kicker bar on my JD 467 so it would get it away from the baler quickly but I know things happen fast. I also got one of those laser thermometers and have been pointing it at the bearings every once in awhile to see if someone is extra hot. So far, none are really hot but my baler has over 30,000 bales on it and I bought it at 28,000 bales so I don't know bearing history. If I saw smoke, I don't think I would be patient enough to drive to a better part of the field to unload the bale so I might lose some hay or the entire hay field, if it rolled just right. Two different farmers within a few miles of me had their combines catch fire this year most likely to bean dust buildup so it got me thinking.

I guess I should practice disconnecting the tractor from the baler quickly. I have a simple pin with a latch on top, however, that pin gets into a bind and makes it hard to pull out by your hand without using the jack stand. I think a crow bar on the tractor might do the trick. Once the pin is out, you could not worry about the hoses as they should disconnect anyway since they are breakaway fittings and the PTO would pull out. You might not have to worry about the wiring harness as it is going to melt anyway but at least by disconnecting it, you would save the monitor. That shouldn't take long to disconnect wiring harness though. So, disconnect pin and wiring harness and pull away, right?

I would surmise that pulling the tractor away happens after you have lost all of your extinguisher unless it is a flaming mess already. Anything else I should consider on my practice?
 

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I guess I should practice disconnecting the tractor from the baler quickly. I have a simple pin with a latch on top, however, that pin gets into a bind and makes it hard to pull out by your hand without using the jack stand.
Well, here is another of my thoughts that everyone can disagree with. The hitch pin size I like to see used with a NH round baler is 7/8”. Two reasons, hay in our area is not grown on flat bottom ground, but on hills where you run into situations where the baler is still headed downhill while the tractor is headed uphill. If you use a pin that fills the hitch holes there is a lot of stress put on the drawbar and baler hitch. Have seen numerous larger hitch pins bent from that situation.

The second reason is as stated in the quote, getting a tight fitting hitch pin out under stress is next to imposable. Have seen several tractors destroyed because the pin could not be pulled.

The baler does not slop back and forth and the pin is large enough the pin will not shear. Most in our area do not use 200 hp tractors to bale with so the drawbar holes are smaller. If using a large tractor a larger pin could probably be used.

ok, flame away.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
mike10 brings up a valid concern with hitch pins. The pin arrangement on NH’s latest series of balers in not conducive to a quick parting of ways of the tractor and baler. The pin fits pretty close in the baler and tractor hitches. The pin tends to get wear ridges that make it harder to get out. Plus my balers have a fancy retainer deal to hold the pin in place which takes more time and height to get the pin out. I know for sure on one of my tractors, the baler PTO would have to come off to get the hitch pin out, and I suspect the other is not much better.

The best thing a person can do to be prepared for a baler fire is to have at least one 2-1/2 gallon extinguisher readily available, and mentally rehearse what to do in the event of fire. AND DO IT IF IT HAPPENS! One thing I can promise, if you do nothing, the baler will burn up. Pretty sure the operator in our latest incident kind of froze and needed some prompting to do the right things. I’m not going to complain. What ends well ends well. There was, evidently, a reason why I was out in that field that day in the other baler, a situation that is not typical for us.
 
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My son and I both are going to practice for real and see what the sticking points are on unhitching. Water extinguisher can be refilled so will try that. All good comments. I am going to check my insurance policy to insure coverage on several scenarios too.
 

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I got tired of the excess fines accumulating behind the side doors on our JD 560m and just took them right off. No more plugging at the gate latches ( if you know, you know) too. Cuts the time in half to blow off the baler at the end of the day also. If the chaff is not piled tight in there it's less of a fire hazard
 
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