Heat, wind heighten SA harvest fire risk

Liz Wells, November 10, 2020

Figure 1: Forecast maximum temperatures, Australia, Tuesday, November 10, 2020. (Source: Bureau of Meteorology)

SOUTH Australian grain growers are on high alert today as a blast of extreme heat and strong winds raises the risk of header-initiated fires, particularly on the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas.

The SA Country Fire Service has placed a total fire ban on the following districts:

  • Northwest Pastoral – Severe
  • West Coast – Severe
  • Eastern Eyre Peninsula – Severe
  • Lower Eyre Peninsula – Severe
  • Yorke Peninsula – Extreme

Figure 2: SA fire danger ratings, Tuesday, November 10, 2020. (Source: SA Country Fire Service)

A number of fires have broken out in the state this morning, including a crop fire on the Yorke Peninsula thought to have been started by a spark from a harvester striking a rock.

SA has a voluntary Grain Harvesting Code of Practice which determines the conditions under which grain harvesting and handling can be carried out or needs to be halted.

Police also now have the power to direct that a producer’s harvesting operations cease where they deem it may cause a fire.

One of the required practices of the code is to suspend grain harvesting operations when the local actual Grassland Fire Danger Index (GFDI) reaches 35.

GrainGrowers SA regional co-ordinator, David Evans, said today was the first high fire risk day the state had experienced so far this harvest season.

David Evans

“It is ironic that we have gone from cool, damp and showery weather when we were having to make decisions about whether we could reap or not, to a total fire ban in the space of less than a week,” he said.

He said growers were very familiar with operating under the state’s harvest code of practice that was framed around the fire danger index, which is a combination of heat, humidity and wind speed.

“Once it gets over the agreed level everyone agrees to stop harvesting. It is voluntary, but most growers are switched on about it. There is quite a degree of peer pressure exerted if anyone sees someone still reaping. Next thing you know his photo is on Twitter and he’ll get a phone call,” he said.

Mr Evans said growers would monitor the conditions throughout the day and keep going with harvest as long as it could be done safely.

“Most of the reaping is only happening on Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas and the Mid North. So, there are people harvesting there, but plenty of people are still a fortnight away,” he said.

“It will be one of those years where the early areas and the late areas will all be harvesting together. It will get compressed.”

See: SA has a voluntary Grain Harvesting Code of Practice




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