VICTORIA’S Country Fire Authority is warning farmers, and especially those in the state’s north, to exercise extreme caution with the cutting, baling and storage of hay.
CFA acting operations manager John Breaks has warne d the weather conditions are creating a dangerous environment.
“In northern Victoria, the dry conditions over the past four months have meant cereal crops are failing and farmers are having to cut their crops for hay and this is raising the potential of us having to respond to haystack fires.
“We’ve been talking a lot about getting your properties ready for a potentially extreme fire season and this includes making sure your haystacks are prepared, put away and stored safely,” he said.
Mr Breaks emphasised the danger haystacks can pose.
“Haystack fires are quite easy to spark, it can be from lightning, equipment and machinery but also from poorly stored haystacks spontaneously combusting.
Spontaneous combustion can occur when haystacks are not properly cured, meaning their moisture content is higher than the recommended level. Storage in an environment with high temperatures and little airflow can trigger a chemical reaction that leads to fire. This can happen to any bale regardless of size, the CFA said.
“Our message is simple; store hay in multiple locations and away from assets to avoid large losses if a fire occurs.
“If you’re storing hay in a shed make sure air can circulate around stacks,” Mr Breaks said.
“Make sure you’re monitoring stacks on a regular basis, checking for heat levels and avoid walking on stacks in case they collapse due to internal heating.
“Make sure to keep your haystacks out of the rain to avoid fluctuating moisture content,” he said.
“With predictions of a severe fire season, the risk of poorly stored haystacks is not worth it.”