‘By the time I got down the steps the flames were round my legs’ - Farm worker’s lucky escape after harvester catches fire
09:56 10 July 2014
A farm worker had a lucky escape when the forage harvester he was driving caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames.
Ben Brunton, who works for Oliver Arnold’s Spring Farm Partnership from Felthorpe, was driving the Krone Big X 1100, said to be the largest agricultural machine in production in the world, in a field of rye at East Bilney, near Dereham, on Monday afternoon.
A tractor driver in the same field spotted smoke coming from the back of the harvester and contacted 23-year-old Mr Brunton on the two-way radio.
“At the time I didn’t know why he was stopping me,” said Mr Brunton, from Scarning. “I went to jump out of the cab and saw flames coming out of the side and by the time I got down the steps the flames were coming round my legs. It was pretty scary.
“I didn’t think too much about it at the time but then I saw pictures of it and I realised it was pretty close.
“I am back on another machine today though. I guess you have to have these life experiences although it was a little bit close for comfort.”
Two fire crews from Dereham extinguished the blaze using hose reel jets and compressed air foam. People reported seeing black smoke from as far as Fakenham to the north and Yaxham to the south.
Mr Arnold said as they were harvesting a green crop for biogas production there was no danger of a field fire and he has since discovered the fire was caused by a fuel leak.
“It must have spilt fuel in the engine bay which ignited the fire,” he said. “We have never had a fire before and we always maintain our machinery 100 percent. But the fact that it was a fuel leak due to engine failure takes some of the pressure off us because there was nothing we could have done about it, not like a bearing had gone that we should have replaced.
“Fire is always a shock especially as you are sitting on a huge fuel tank with a cooling fan that will fan the flames. We have two of these machines, this one was in its fourth season, so we have lost a day’s production but farmers have been very good as we have had to tell them to hang on a bit but we are up and running again.
“Ben was lucky to get out because it was that quick but he is OK and that is all that matters.”
While Mr Arnold is relieved no-one was hurt he is, however, angry at some opportunist thieves who took advantage of the situation.
“Ben had left all his tools in the cab and when we went back that evening they were too hot to handle so I told Ben I would get them the next day and use them in the workshop and get him a new set,” he said. “But when I went back the next morning they had been stolen. I couldn’t believe it.”
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