Article Archives
An Answer to Combine Fires

Thursday, September 15, 2005
filed under: Equipment

Roger Holen got to the end of the sunflower field he was harvesting two years ago, and swung the John Deere 9600 around to take another swath. All of a sudden the engine quit and there was a big roar with immense heat – the combine was on fire.

“It went in a matter of seconds,” he says. “My wife was on the other combine and could see flames shooting 30 feet into the air.”

Before he even got out of the cab, the oil tank blew. “I got out and jumped off the platform straight to the ground running.” Holen hurt his hip from jumping, but was otherwise uninjured. The combine was a total loss.

The Upham, N.D. grower had just cleaned the combine of chaff a round and a half before. So what happened? He surmises that a cinder went through a hydraulic line. “And with the pressure, it was like a big blow torch.”

Holen replaced the 9600 with a 9650. He didn’t grow ‘flowers this year, but not because of the fire. “Actually, I just ran out of rotation. I’ve been growing as many ‘flowers as I could and had to back off this year. We’re going to plant more sunflower again next year.”

Coincidentally, Holen’s cousin, Shelby Holen of Superior, Wisc, recently partnered with Neal Hall, Brook Park, Minn., to invent an automatic fire extinguishing system for clothes dryers. Both are aircraft mechanics, and Hall is a volunteer fireman. A relative had a fire start in a dryer, from lint accumulating on hot bearings. About a week later, they learned that a similar problem ended in tragedy, with a clothes dryer fire that killed people. “We figured someone should do something, and came up with an idea,” says Hall.

Their patent-pending concept is relatively simple: A pressurized tank of dry chemical fire extinguishing agent is attached to the appliance. Copper tubing runs from the extinguisher to the motor area. Soldered at the end of the tubing is a low temperature cap that melts off in the event of fire, automatically releasing the pressurized fire extinguishing agent.

So Hall and the Holens put their experiences together, applying the concept to Roger’s 9650. Shelby Holen and Hall came out to Roger Holen’s farm. Roger pointed out hot spots on the combine where a fire could start. With the combine running, Hall and Shelby Holen used a temperature gauge to measure the temperature of those areas, to determine heat sensitivity needed for the end caps of an automatic fire extinguishing system fitted for the combine.

The pressurized 25-lb tank with dry fire extinguishing agent is mounted behind the engine compartment, connected to copper tubing that extends to the exhaust, manifold, in front of the engine by the fuel tank, and the drive line that runs through the hopper where chaff can build up.

“I hope I never have to use it,” says Roger Holen. “But this should solve things if I ever have a fire again.” He believes the system has definite commercial possibilities. “Losing a combine is one thing, but this could also save lives.” Something that could protect a $100,000-$200,000 combine might even qualify for some sort of insurance premium reduction, he adds.

While Hall and Holen developed the idea, they’re trying to find someone else to manufacture and market it. “We’ve got our regular jobs and family, so we just don’t have the time and resources to do it ourselves.”

Readers of The Sunflower who know of a company interested in commercializing the automatic fire extinguisher are encouraged to contact Hall, ph. 320-629-7956, cell 320-420-9584, email – Tracy Sayler

return to top of page

   More about Sunflower ►