Farmer’s lucky escape as combine bursts into flames in wheat field

Combine harverster fire near Toft Monks. Photo: Mike Page Combine harverster fire near Toft Monks. Photo: Mike Page

Monday, August 18, 2014
11:01 AM

A farmer had a lucky escape after the combine harvester he was driving burst in to flames.

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Combine harverster fire near Toft Monks. Photo: Mike PageCombine harverster fire near Toft Monks. Photo: Mike Page

The large Classic combine and at least five acres of wheat were destroyed during the incident at Bulls Green, Toft Monks on Saturday at about 2.30pm.

Bryan Collen, 76, was driving the combine harvester with his son John, 45, when the two men noticed smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle.

Bryan, of White House Farm, Gisleham, attempted to drive the combine out of the field to safety but before he could reach the edge he heard a loud bang as the petrol tank containing 1,000 litres of fuel and rear tyres blew up.

Firefighters from Great Yarmouth, Beccles, Lowestoft and Hethersett were called to the scene and plume of black smoke could be seen for some distance as they battled to bring the blaze under control with hose reel jets, beaters and foam.

Bryan said: “We were combining along quite happily, my son was in the cab with me, when we smelled something burning.

“We stopped and went round the combine and saw there was some smoke.

“We found the field was on fire so we quickly rang the fire brigade .

“We had a big fire extinguisher but it wouldn’t put it out and we tried to beat it out without success.

“I drove the combine out of the fire because at that time it seemed fine and we thought it was just a bearing that had gone.

“I got half way across the field and it exploded in to flames.

“It is absolutely wrecked . Totally burned out.”

The two men were not hurt during the incident and three dogs that had been in the cab when the fault was noticed also escaped unharmed.

Bryan said fortunately the combine was insured and the manufacturer had arrange to deliver a replacement straight away to enable the family to continue with their harvest.

He said he believed the fire was caused by a bearing overheating in the combine and the ripeness of the wheat crop meant it had caught fire very easily.

He added; “We have to take it in our stride. It is the first fire we have had in a field for 30 years. I think when it happens there is nothing you can do. It takes hold and is gone so quickly. The combine was gone in two minutes.

“The lesson we have learned is not to try and save the combine. You have got to jump out and leave it . I tried to save the combine and it could have been a disaster but it wasn’t.”

The family farms 3,000 acres in the area and have about 600 acres still left to harvest.

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