Serving the Farming Industry across the Midlands for 35 Years
Advice for farmers as concern grows for hot summer Six-point safety plan aims to fight farm fires this harvest

A six-point farm safety plan has been launched in a bid to avert a repeat of last summer’s devastating season of field fires.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual has joined forces with the NFU and Thames Valley Police to issue fire prevention advice. It comes after record-breaking temperatures and lack of rain turned the countryside into a tinderbox for combines, balers and standing crops.

Almost £4m of damage was caused by farm fires last year in the Thames Valley area alone – including Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Other regions were similarly affected, including East Anglia.

Across the Thames Valley area, fire prevention advice and news about the onset of local high-risk weather conditions are being shared by the fire service and the NFU’s text alert network and other social media platforms.

Huge losses

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Hannah Binns said: “Farm fires put the lives of people and animals at risk and lead to huge financial losses, destroyed food and damage to the environment.

“We recommend that farmers increase regular cleaning stops and consider a range of additional fire prevention measures including combine fire suppression systems to reduce fire risks in future hot summers.”

Working together would share expertise and quickly alert farmers to extreme weather conditions, said Ms Binns. This would help to protect farm machinery and encourage farmers to take actions to mitigate the risk of fire.

NFU advice is to keep farm vehicles maintained at all times. This includes combine harvesters which should be cleared out regularly during harvest. It’s also important to keep a serviced fire extinguisher to hand.

Trained staff

Having an emergency plan and staff trained on what to do is also important. This should include instructions on accessing water supplies, with a water-filled bowser and tractor with plough on hand to create a fire break if needed.

Steve Leonard, group manager for wildfire in the Thames Valley area, said: “Last year saw an increase in fires across the Thames Valley and the UK. Thames Valley Fire and Rescue Services are proud to work with the farming community to try and reduce incidents of agricultural fires and loss of crop and equipment.

“Even though we had an unprecedented rise in temperatures last year and climate change predictions will see this issue increase in the future, we hope the advice given with NFU Mutual and the NFU will help protect farmers’ livelihoods.”

Harvest Farm Prevention Advice

Regular maintenance
Ensure equipment is clean and maintained before every harvest activity. Regular equipment blowdowns and lubrication schedules can help avoid fires.

Help the fire service
Provide the fire and rescue service control centre with what3words from the entrance of your farm and wait for the first appliance.

Know your water supply
Ensure any available water on your farm is accessible to fire and rescue crews – including the nearest fire hydrant if available

Have a contingency plan
Use cultivators to put in fire breaks where safe to do so. Have water bowsers on hand and available to extinguish spot fires.

Store safe
Where possible, avoid storing bales near main roads to deter would-be trespassers and arsonists. Store pesticides and fertilisers securely.

Check conditions
Consult the Fire Severity Index before planning harvesting activities. This will help you avoid the most extreme weather zones.