Morfeld escapes injury in combine fire

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 10/21/20

Steve Morfeld of Linn has been farming for a long time but this is the first time he’s ever been involved in a combine fire, and he feels fortunate to have escaped unharmed.

“It could have …

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Morfeld escapes injury in combine fire

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Steve Morfeld of Linn has been farming for a long time but this is the first time he’s ever been involved in a combine fire, and he feels fortunate to have escaped unharmed.

“It could have been a whole lot worse,” said Morfeld Thursday of last Wednesday’s 1 p.m. incident. “I’m not sure exactly how the fire started, but I looked back and saw smoke following me.”

As it happened, the back axle was on fire, likely due to the build-up of chaff and other small items collected during the harvest of soybeans he farms near the Gasconade River.

“The fire hit the hydraulic hose and the oil, and there were 120 gallons of diesel fuel of course, plus the tires,” said Morfeld. “There was also a suggestion that static electricity could have played a role. It was so dry, and there was no humidity, so it didn’t take much with all the dust out there. Everything was very combustible.”

A no-burn advisory was issued Wednesday and Thursday of last week due to the low humidity and high winds.

Once the fire was rolling, Morfeld said the high wind drove it quickly but the real danger was smoke inhalation.

“It was a complete whiteout,” he said. “I’ve never been in a situation where I couldn’t see anything, and it was tough to breathe.”

Morfeld turned the combine into the wind and did his best to get away from the fire. “I looked down and saw the county road, and drove as far as I could to the side of the field,” said Morfeld. “I finally saw where I was going.”

While the combine was engulfed, Morfeld moved two tractors away from the fire.

Alone at the time, Morfeld had already cleared a good portion of the field, estimating he lost about 75 bushels of soybeans that were in the hopper at the time of the fire.

Poor cellular service in that area made it difficult to connect with 911 but Morfeld said he was eventually able to get help as the Linn Fire Protection District and Osage Ambulance District responded to his farm.

LFPD Incident Commander Asst. Chief Craig Leivian said the department discharged about 2,000 gallons of water to put out the combine fire but the field burned itself out. Two Missouri Department of Conservation agents also responded and helped douse hotspots with about 80 gallons of water.

“I’m grateful for everything they did,” Morfeld said, adding that friends and neighbors helped as well with the fire.

LFPD cleared the scene at about 4 p.m.

Fortunately, Morfeld has a back-up combine he can use to finish harvesting the 47 acres of soybeans as the primary machine was completely destroyed by the fire. “I’ve had friends and neighbors offer their combines but I think we’ll be okay,” he said. “I really appreciate their support.”

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