Saturday, October 19, 2019

Farm fires reach four-year high

The cost of farm fires has reached a four-year high – but the Midlands have escaped the worst of the damage according to the latest figures.

NFU Mutual claims statistics reveal the cost of farm fires totalled £46.4m last year – a 27.5% rise from 2017. Electrical faults are the most common cause, accounting for 37% of claims during a tinder-dry year with a prolonged summer.

Particular threat

The increase was largely driven by the dry summer, with crop fires proving a particular threat. July costs alone saw a year-on-year increase of more than 350% in incidents. But the cost fell by almost 20% in the Midlands to £4.3m.

Even so, the scale of farm fires has prompted a call to farmers to check their fire prevention methods and evacuation procedures. NFU Mutual rural specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “Fire remains one of the greatest risks to the lives and property of farmers.

“Our latest figures serve as a crucial reminder to be alert to the danger and have plans prepared and shared with family members and staff. It is possible to manage the risks by taking all possible steps to prevent fires breaking out, and to have clear plans in place to evacuate people and livestock safely.”

Although electrical faults were the most common cause, prolonged dry weather contributed to the scale of blazes. The second most common cause of fire (23%) was spread from elsewhere – such as barn or homestead, followed in third place by arson (20%).

Driest summer

Met Office figures suggest 2018 was the driest summer since 2003 and the hottest since 2006. These conditions and an early harvest left UK farmers particularly vulnerable to fires, with tinder dry crops and overheating combines and farm machinery.

Ian Jewitt, managing director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said: “We’d advise farmers to schedule regular safety checks of electrical equipment to help minimise that risk.

“Consider fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists and make it harder for fires to spread by keeping hay and straw at least 10m from farm buildings.

“To enable you to fight a small fire safely, keep fire extinguishers in good working order and make adults living and working on the farm aware of where they can be found and how they should be used.”

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