There have been already six fires on the fields since the beginning of the harvesting season this year. For the last year it was registered eight. The harvesting season goes full blast, and the tendency of this year speaks about high risk of fires. Jointly with the state department on technogenic safety ForUm has investigated into why crops burn and how to prevent field fires.

The harvesting season is and always has been a hot season for farmers. Literally. In high summer one spark is enough to set on fire the whole field. Having shoved off for a trip along the Kyiv and Chernihiv fields ForUm leaned how the farmers keep the crops safe.

Fields and forest belts. Corn, sunflowers, wheat, barley and even exotic crop - sorgo. Our first stop is near village Tsybli of the Kyiv region. 50 hectares of field are waiting to be harvested. Ordinary field, nothing special...but only for a non-professional.  Head of the technogenic safety department of the Kyiv region Oleksandr Voitenko has immediately noticed a number of violations of fire safety rules.

"The basic rules of fire safety are ignored here. The field is contiguous to the road, while according to the regulations the fields bordering the roads and railway tracks must be mowed and plowed up all around. As you can see it is not done here. Besides, the area measures more than 30 hectares, hence must be divided into parts with plowed up swaths of eight meters wide minimum. If one part goes on fire, then neighboring ones will be safe from contamination. However, the swaths are not made either," Oleksandr Voitenko says.

Having asked about the punishment for such careless owner, we learned that the fine is nominal, only 175 hryvnias. If inspectors see malfunctioning equipment (vehicles without spark arresting devices, for example) the works will be suspended until everything is put in order.

Such carelessness can be explained by farmers' attempts to minimize process expenses. "Necessary mowing and plowing cost pretty money, and for small farms these are critical expenses," the fireguard added.

According to Voitenko, the only way to force all farmers into following the fire safety regulations is to introduce obligatory insurance of crops. In case of fire the insurance money will be paid only to those who have taken all fire prevention measures.

Having talked to the fireguard we decided to make some question to a combine operator, who just arrived on the field. Serhiy Snigyr has been working as a combiner for 36 years, and this year he and his team are going from region to region to harvest. When asked to comment on the current situation with fire safety rules, the combiner informed that in Soviet times all fields went first prepared before the harvesting, including mowing and plowing, while now the farmers indeed want to spare the expenses.

"Now every farmer has own combine harvesters, hence has to bring the machines from other regions and then return them back. These are expenses and no everyone can afford this kind of expenses. However, we've just come from the south regions, and there all the safety rules are observed. They don't have to move machines back and forth, as the fields are close to each other," the combiner says.

However, the main thing we've learned is that the combiner has never witnessed a field fire for the whole time he's been working. May be the low risk is the main reason for farmers to ignore fire safety regulations.

Going further we arrive in the village of Peschanoye. We stop to take some picture and have a word with the working combiner. The combiner Leonid Piven also confirms that fires are rare during harvesting season. "Last year there was a small fire outbreak. Hot tailpipe of a passing car set on fire the hay, but we managed to extinguish it immediately. However, I've been working as a combiner for 30 years and I've never seen a serious fire on a field," Leonid Piven said.

The combiner also told us that every year before the harvest the fireguards hold briefing on fire safety regulations, "but we already know that the most important prohibition is smoking in the field."
However, the crops can burn not only in the field. Grain storages are also the objects of increased fire hazard. The grain can spontaneously combust under certain conditions, which are humidity and plenty of grain.

Now we go to one of the grain storages not far from the village of Zolotonoshy, where local fireguards hold training simulating fire outbreak and its liquidation.

According to the legend, a fire outbreak has happened in one of the cylindrical grain storages. It cannot be seen from outside, but the inner detectors have went off. The team of volunteers from the local staff starts liquidation.

First they drill the walls in order to be able to pump water through the holes. Then they put on the eclectic pump, connected to the nearby pond, and water the storage from outside to cool it off. Now we watch the arrival of the professional fire brigade from the Zolotonoshy fire department. With joint efforts the teams manage to liquidate "the outbreak".

Commenting on our trip, we can say that fire extinguishers, spark arresting device, electric pumps and fire alarms always come in handy. However, the main thin is to follow the common sense and simply rules: don't throw out cigarette stubs from your car window while driving along a field; don't build fires during harvesting; don't burn weeds and crop remains.

In the end we want to wish all farmers a heavy crop and all firefighters only simulated fires.

Dmytro Hyliuk, photo Viktor Kovalchuk


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