It just takes a spark on a standing field of grain, in tinder-dry conditions, to create a fast-moving dangerous situation with a run-away fire.

Deputy Fire Chief for the Killarney-Turtle Mountain Fire Department, Sean Phillips, says thus far there have not been many 911 calls in response to field fires, despite the hot and dry conditions.

"Though the chance of fire is very high right now," he says. "With the winds we've had we've found the fires that have started, have taken off fairly quickly, and can definitely burn a lot of the crop that is still standing and threatens crops around it and neighboring yards' buildings and houses."

He says some farmers have been pro-active in setting up their water tanks at the end of the field, just in case machinery strikes a rock and lights a spark, or the under-carriage of a truck ignites a fire in the stubble.

Phillips says this practice of having ready water available has been an asset for everyone, as the Turtle Mountain municipality covers a large area of 360 sq miles (930 sq km) and response times can vary when the emergency response team has to cover a longer distance.  He says with water on site, farmers can act immediately and get the fire knocked down before it has a chance to gain momentum and spread across the field or jump across the road to a neighboring field.

"Sometimes, we get there, and we find the farmer has actually done a great job of containing it to a very small portion of the field and, hopefully not their crop, but just their stubble got burned," he adds.

Between multiple harvesters, tractors pulling grain carts, semi-trucks and pick-ups there is potential for a field fire from any one of these machines.  Phillips says the buddy system is very important, to watch out for each other, and if something doesn't look right, or sound right, or smell right with someone's else's unit, to bring attention to it.

"If you do see smoke or maybe you hear a dry bearing or some kind of a rubbing noise, maybe let the operator know," he says.  "If something doesn't sound right, stop and take a look.  Maybe you'll see something that's hot, anything you can do to prevent a fire."

"We've even seen where neighbors see smoke and they come on over with a tractor.  We were at a fire just last week and the neighbors came over and were able to use a pro-till to stop the fire from advancing to another field. So, it is a good thing to keep your eyes open all the time while you're out there."

As we move deeper into the harvest season, Phillips says we need to continue to be vigilant about taking care of our machinery, and each other, and watching out for potential hazards.

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