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Combine fire not discouraging father and daughter farming duo

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WATCH: On a recent harvest of a field near Estevan, Sask., Gracie LeBlanc's combine started on fire. Thanks to her dad, Jason, and calm demeanour, she was not injured. – Sep 6, 2020

Combining is a right of passage for many kids and teenagers who grow up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan.

For thirteen-year-old Gracie LeBlanc, one recent experience was something she won’t ever soon forget.

LeBlanc, who has been operating the machine for about a month now by herself, said conditions on Sept. 1 were hot and windy in the Estevan area.

Read more: Warm, dry conditions allow harvest to advance quickly: Saskatchewan Agriculture

She says it was a routine harvest.

After coming around a corner, she went to fill up one of the trucks with the crop and smelt something funny, but thought nothing of it.

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Shortly after, her dad Jason and one of his crew members informed her the combine was on fire.

“They told me on the radio that something was smoking,” Gracie said. “They told me to get out, so I grabbed the fire extinguisher and tried to put out the fire.”

Jason says the wind was gusting to over 70 km/h, helping turn the smoking into an inferno in a matter of minutes.

“It was an eye-opener for all of us, just how fast it went,” he said.

“From the time my daughter got out of that cab to when it was fully engulfed — probably one minute.”

He has been farming for five decades and only helped to put one out before. He has never had one start while he was farming, he said.

They tried to put it out with fire extinguishers but were unsuccessful.

Read more: Saskatchewan government investing $1M in agricultural water management projects

It isn’t the first fire in the province in recent weeks.

The Craik fire department responded to one that resulted in a total loss of the farm equipment the fire swept through.

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Fire Chief Rob Pattison said no one was hurt but it took roughly three hours to put out.

Farmers are trained to follow safety protocols such as clearing dust, having water tankers nearby as they swath and thoroughly cleaning their machines.

But despite “producers’ best practices, we still end up with fires,” said Todd Lewis, president of the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

He says crops such as peas and lentils, when dry, have been known as fire starters on hot days.

He says there have been reports of fires this year while it has been hot, but says combines fires are not uncommon.

“(Fortunately) we haven’t had any reports of injuries,” he said.

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Jason says he and local farmers have a WhatsApp group set up for situations such as emergencies.

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He says one quick text and people stopped what they were doing and came out to help put out the flames.

“It was amazing to see,” said Jason.

Gracie says the fire won’t stop her from helping out her dad. In fact, she credits his past on knowledge and training for her staying calm.

Damage done to the LeBlanc combine by a fire on Sept. 1 in the Estevan area.
Damage done to the LeBlanc combine by a fire on Sept. 1 in the Estevan area. Submitted by Jason LeBlanc