• Another spike of claims expected
• Rural insurer seeks to reduce risk
• Suppression kits stop fire spread
NFU Mutual is offering cheaper insurance premiums for farmers and contractors who fit approved fire suppression kits to agricultural machinery.
It comes amid renewed fears that the summer drought and heatwave could see another increase in the cost of farm fires. Farm fires cost £97m last year – with another spike in claims expected this summer.
The cost of agricultural machinery fires also exceeded £37m in 2021 – with combine fire claims shooting up by 35%. This year has also seen a number of high-profile fires – including blazes which have made national headlines.
Farm and agricultural machinery fires can put lives at risk, damage valuable crops and machinery and disrupt vital harvest, said NFU Mutual. Premium discounts are now available for farmers fitting approved fire suppression kits, it added.
Evita van Gestel, of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said: “Dusty, tinder dry conditions combined with hot moving parts, lots of electrical wiring and a tank full of diesel provide everything that is needed to turn a spark into a violent fire.
“Not only can this result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of agricultural machinery, but it can also damage or destroy nearby crops and buildings and disrupt harvest at a time when farmers can least afford it.”
NFU Mutual, which insures three-quarters of all UK farms, says fires on farms typically peak in the months of July and August, when harvest is well underway and the weather is generally hotter and drier. Last year, there were almost 500 harvest fire claims.
The summer heatwave will increase the risk of agricultural machinery fires, said Ms van Gestel. These claims are estimated to have cost over £37m last year, with a 35% increase in the number of combine fire claims during the 2021 harvest.
Fire suppression kits could stop a fire in its tracks, said Ms van Gestel. “We’re urging farmers to use our fire prevention checklist and to maintain regular cleaning and maintenance of machinery to avoid destructive fires.
Farmers are advised to fit a suppression system that meets P-mark status to contain, extinguish and prevent fire. They should also regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots and check machines over at the end of each day.
An air compressor can be used to regularly blow away debris from the machine – but only when the exit pressure is reduced to 2.1 bar (30psi) and the operator wears eye and respiratory protective gear for protection.
Farmers are urged to keep a bowser filled with water on hand when conducting fieldwork. Employees should be able to access this water supply – and be prepared to create a fire break in the event of a crop fire.