Clouds of toxic black and white smoke billowed into the air mixed with bright orange flames when firefighters from the Highland County North Joint Fire and Ambulance District arrived at the scene of a combine on fire Thursday at 9129 SR 138, approximately one-half mile northeast of Bridges Road.
Dispatchers used the description “fully engulfed about 300 yards off the road” when the call went out shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday.
The owner of the 2004 Lexion combine, Mark Griffith of Hillsboro, told The Times-Gazette he was effecting repairs using a torch, but noted that the area he was working at was insulated from both the cargo and fuel supply.
At the time of the fire, he said the farm implement was fully fueled and contained roughly 300 bushels of soybeans.
“I was cutting a bearing off and hitting it with a hammer,” he said, “and I noticed there was small patch of fire on the ground and the fire extinguisher was up in the cab, and when I looked up, I saw the cab was on fire, too.”
He said after isolating the oxygen and acetylene tanks he used for the torch, he followed his prior training in firefighting and attempted to put out the fire with the on-board extinguisher, but “after one puff, the combine was gone.” He estimated the vehicle was fully engulfed in smoke and flames in the span of three to four minutes.
“It only had around 2,100 hours on it,” he said. “And I spent about $55,000 on the head for it just last fall, and yesterday had to go all the way to Indiana to get parts for it.”
Firefighters had the conflagration under control within minutes of arrival, with Griffith saying it was a total loss.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.