Growers and livestock producers are being urged to take action to reduce the risk of farm fires – which have reached a five-year high.
The cost of farm fires totalled £49.1million last year – a rise of nearly 6% from 2018, according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual. Early indications suggest this year could be even worse, said the rural insurer.
To reduce the risk of arson, more farmers are using remote camera systems linked to mobile phones. They are also fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists and trespassers.
Electrical faults accounted for more than half the total, followed by arson which rose by 40% to £9m. Farmers should take precautions and implement emergency plans, said Andy Manson, managing director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services.
“Farm fires put the lives of people and livestock at risk as well as having a huge emotional and business impact on farmers and their families. The scale of the damage we are seeing shows it’s more important than ever to reduce the risk of a fire.”
Farmers should take action to reduce fire risks from electrical equipment, combustible material and fuel, said Mr Manson. But they should also protect themselves from the alarming rise in arson damage.
Operating in harsh environments, farm electrical systems were often wet, hot or dusty leading to short circuits and cable failures. RMS experts were on hand to provide health and safety advice and carry out risk assessments.
Farmers should ensure electrical inspections are undertaken regularly. They should also avoid overloading power supplies and have enough plug sockets to avoid using multi gangs and other adapters.
Risk of arson
Although the number of farm fires last year was at a similar level to 2018 across the UK, the damage was more costly. The worst-affected region by cost in 2019 was the Midlands, where the total cost reached £13.2m.
The second worst-affected region was north-east England with fire claim costs totalling £7.6m – up from £4.7m in 2018. It was followed by the East of England with claims totalling £7m, down from £11.1m.
Claims this year could be even higher. Insurance figures from January to July 2020 have seen an increase in both incidents and cost – suggesting that 2020 could be heading towards a six-year high, says NFU Mutual.