Exploding combine shocks Sask. farmers

James Zimmer was combine shopping earlier this week after his old one blew up.

The fiery scene, which occurred in the Zimmer family’s farmyard near Major, Sask., on Sept. 6., destroyed the machine with flames and explosions hot enough to melt aluminum.

“It was a close call.… The flames were probably 50 feet in the air,” said James.

“How the hell do you get that kind of a flame when you’re working with mostly steel, right?”

Zimmer, 57, was combining canola a little more than three kilometres from the family’s home with his 25-year-old son, Brandon, when the incident began.

“(The) combine just got warm. There was a lot of red ash that was showing on it, of course,” said Zimmer, who farms 4,000 acres.

After using a fire extinguisher on the machine in the field, James headed back to the yard to ready a water tank while Brandon drove the 2011 Case IH 8120 combine.

“(A neighbour) was combining besides us and he could see the red glow as we were driving it. My son couldn’t, of course … so he jumped in his truck and followed us. He knew there was going to be a problem,” said James.

Once in the yard, James said he could see flames. When the combine was parked, Brandon hopped out. A few seconds later, it exploded.

“It rocked the combine, and they’re a heavy combine, right. It kind of bounced the back end,” said James. “It was a massive boom. People heard it from a mile away even.”

Smaller explosions followed, which James likened to the sound of shotguns.

“That was an unbelievable, hot fire,” he said.

Nobody was hurt in the incident. On Thursday, James was awaiting the arrival of a new machine, which he expected on Friday.

With 3,500 acres left, James was optimistic about the remaining harvest. His area received rain on Monday but dodged the snow and frost seen west of the Saskatchewan border.

“Pretty darn good, I think. We did our peas and they were 40, 45 (bushels per acre). (We) just started on the canola and it looked like close to around 40 (bu. per acre) maybe,” said James.

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