Jan 11, 2024

A Quick Response Solution to Combine Fires

Photo of Quick Response Fire Suppression Skid
Quick Response Fire Suppression Skid

Combine fires can start in a fraction of a second and burn for up to 30 minutes before they’re noticed, damaging farm livelihoods, and economies. “It seems like every trade show I'm at, every customer I talk to knows somebody who’s had a fire on a combine,” says Ryan Flaman, at Flaman Group of Companies. “All it takes is one bearing to heat up, and those bearings are usually covered in dust or have dust all around.” Combines are often destroyed before a fire truck can arrive, adding callout costs of up to $10K.


Ryan focused on two words, “quick response.” 

He sought to improve on the idea of mounting a quick response unit on the combine’s mobile shadow, the grain cart. Flaman already sold tanks, pumps, hoses, and other components they would need. Early in December, 2022, Ryan started envisioning fire protection that was more effective, comprehensive, affordable and accessible than what farmers could rig for themselves. Their input would prove invaluable. 

48 inch Wide Skid fits in half-ton truck or grain cart
Built-in fork pockets allow you to move the 48” wide skid to your half-ton truck or grain cart easily.

Finding the Right Components

Ryan studied available options and reviewed them in meetings with the Parts and Hardware department throughout the winter. There were units powered by rechargeable 12-volt batteries. Other small electric units offered a 35-gallon tank. Gas-powered kits offered 60 US gallon tanks and either mounted on grain carts or sat in the back of an RV or pickup truck. But many farmers were asking for more spray volume. 

A 150-gallon tank that fits neatly out of the way on a grain cart.A 150-gallon tank that fits neatly out of the way on a grain cart.

Unfortunately, 250-gallon tanks took up too much space and weighed up to 3000 pounds with the necessary mounting hardware. The customers he talked to had their own number in mind – 150 Imperial gallons or 180 US gallons. The closest Ryan could source were 125 gallon tanks. 

That tank was part of a prototype Ryan showed to his uncle Don Flaman. Don was excited, but Parts and Hardware thought they could come closer to the volume customers had asked for. So, they had a tank molded that could hold 150 gallons and fit neatly out of the way on a grain cart. It’s a uniquely Flaman component, unavailable any place else.

The skid plate was a slightly different story. Ryan had envisioned a hanger system to hold the unit from the top, but he needed a strong plate underneath that could support everything and be compact enough to fit in a tight space. This would also make it easy to transport and store. He scribbled the dimensions on a napkin diagram, scanned it, and sent it off to an engineer. That began a process of back-and-forth tweaks, honing a skid plate that met all the necessary criteria. 

3/16 inch powder-coated steel skid.
3/16” powder-coated steel skid. Ruggedly built to handle heavy use.

The final skid plate uses 3/16” thick metal, protected by Powdercoat. Similar products settled for a 1/16” thickness can be squished even flatter when the bolts are tightened. The Flaman skid also features fork pockets, so it can be easily moved to your grain cart, the back of a pickup truck, or any storage space when not in use. 

Fire Nozzle with Foam CartridgeCost-effective, reliable, and user friendly cartridge based foam delivery system.

Fire Suppression

Next, Ryan and the team looked at fire-suppression foam. Direct-injection liquid foam systems seemed promising. Their foam mixing system was ideal for several home applications, but was it right for Flaman’s new firefighting unit? 

Liquid foam has a limited shelf life, and it requires agitation once a month. With harvest coming once in a busy farm year, it was easy to forget the monthly maintenance. Ryan didn’t want his customers depending on something that had any chance of failing them at the exact wrong moment. 

So, he opted for a solid foam cartridge system that restricts water flow. This creates more back pressure, so the stream can spray farther and hit flames harder. The cartridges don’t require shaking or have a predetermined expiry date. You can keep them in your pickup’s glove box until you need one. 

150 PSI Hose on an Industrial Cox Reel100 feet of 3/4 inch 150 PSI hose on an industrial cox reel

Reliable Hose Access

Other firefighting units Ryan has seen have opted for clear air seeder (PVC) hose looped around two small hooks, which looked likely to tangle up at the worst possible moment. The Flaman Firefighter uses a black rubber hose rated at 150 PSI and spooled around a trusty Cox hose reel. Ryan chose it because it was compact, well-built and able to hold 100 feet of hose – putting plenty of reach in a small space. 

Aluminum Pump with Honda GX2002” Aluminum Pump with Honda GX200

The Pump for the Job 

“The only thing that we readily had in stock was the pump,” Ryan says. The popular BE WP-2065HL general purpose water pump was ideally suited to the job. Equipped with a cast-iron impeller, it’s lightweight. Powered by a Honda GX200 Engine, it has the power to go all day every day.

But will it work?

After a winter of planning and assembling all the components, the team took the prototype out for field testing. To everyone’s gratification, there was no need to adjust its operation.

“We took the prototype number one and filled it up with water and throttled it up and water would shoot like 30 feet,” Ryan says. That’s some heavy pressure, but you’ll have a good 20 minutes of continuous flow without draining your tank, thanks to constriction at the nozzle. 

The only necessary changes were to the tank's shape and the width of the skid. Those alterations made, the Flaman Firefighter was ready to report for duty – or more correctly, duties.

Easily move the 48 inch wide skid with built in fork pocketsBuilt-in fork pockets

More Uses than One

The Firefighter may be designed for combine fires, but its quick response capabilities lend themselves to other emergency applications, like grass and brush fires. Mounted on the back of a pickup truck, it can provide a first line of defense for more remote communities.

Value for Money

“I looked at what customers could get and what they would have to pay for it,” Ryan says. “I figured we could give them something better at a more affordable price.” That took a lot of planning, shopping around and testing, but the end product delivered the safety and functionality the customers wanted at the right size and price. 

“Our customers’ feedback identified the issues we needed to address. They asked us to deliver a bigger tank, a heavier skid, a pump with a bigger motor, and a hose reel that’s compact but still heavy-duty. They answered the question, ‘How can I make something better?’ I think I made more work for myself than I needed to, but I’ve enjoyed this.” 

See the Future of Farm Firefighting at Your Nearest Flaman Location

The Flaman Quick Response Fire Suppression Skid is one of many farm, home and business safety solutions we offer. Drop by and see this Inhouse-designed unit at any of our seven Flaman Sales locations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

Call or visit your nearest location – Swift Current, Swan River, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Southey, Yorkton, or Moosomin. Our fire suppression experts will be happy to show you the many features that could make all the difference one day.