Farm fire statistics reveal the cost of farm fires totalled £95.6 million in 2021, the damage from arson attacks alone cost £8.4m a year.
Electrical faults and deliberate ignition of hay and straw were the biggest known cause of fire in 2021 and large-scale farm arson attacks worryingly shot up from £4.7m in 2020 to £8.4m in 2021.
Farm fires put lives at risk, as well as cause disruption and devastating damage to farm businesses. However, implementing and maintaining good standards of housekeeping, particularly around the storage of combustibles and flammables such as hay, straw, and fuels, will also reduce the risk of a fire spreading.
• Hay and straw fires are the primary fuel source in agricultural fires. Removed hay and straw from the field as soon as possible after harvesting.
• To limit any potential loss, try to store hay and straw away from buildings containing agrochemicals, farm machinery and livestock.
• Store hay and straw away from public roads, foot paths and anywhere that the public have access or right of way.
• Secure your farm buildings from casual access, provide clear signage on footpaths to accidental access.
• Protect flammable liquids in a secure store, tank outlets should be padlocked. Consider CCTV to monitor fuel tanks.
• Consider security lighting with passive infra-red sensor security on to high value areas.
• Ensure burning-off of stubble & waste is done in a strictly controlled manner with no opportunity for the public to access burning materials.
• Separate stacks of hay and straw bales a minimum of 10 meters apart. Create a plan for dealing with a stack fire and ensure farm staff are aware what to do.
• Repair damaged gates and fences to limit access. Pay particular attention to areas that are difficult to observe but allow access to the farm site.
• Consider working with local schools to educate children of the risks in farm fires to people, livestock & themselves. This preventative approach is simple & effective.
• Create a Farm Watch scheme with other farmers nearby to share ways to keep your farms secure & safe from the risk of arson. Speak with your local Police & Fire station for advice.
• Have a Fire Plan and test your firefighting equipment regularly.
Parkland and Open Spaces:
Those with responsibility for a parkland or open space are asked to follow this advice to help us prevent and reduce fires.
• Paths can be used as natural fire breaks, keep them well maintained and trimmed back.
• Regularly check and maintain open water supplies for firefighting.
• Ensure damaged fences are repaired, and signage is fixed and clear.
• Consider locking gates to limit access.
• Rubbish bins should be located on solid ground and emptied regularly.
• Remove grass and tree cuttings as soon as possible.
Fires in grassland:
Summertime temperatures are increasing making the risk of fires in accessible grassland areas increase. Some of these fires may well be accidental but research has demonstrated most are anti-social behaviour fires that are deliberately started. Deliberately started fires on accessible grassland and public spaces cause widespread damage and impact on the environment and community that use these public spaces.
County Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue Service would like to advise people who are looking to enjoy our countryside and grassland public spaces to follow some simple fire safety advice.
• Only access designated public access areas.
• Take your rubbish home or deposit in designated waste bins.
• Avoid using BBQs or only use them in safe, dedicated areas.
• Dispose of cigarettes in a safe manner, ensuring they are completely out.
• Always dispose of bottles in an appropriate bin or take them home.
• Report grass fires immediately by calling 999, giving as much detail as possible including the nearest main road or using What Three Words.