Plea to farmers after several crop fires

Thursday, 26th July 2018

STAFFORDSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service is urging farmers to take steps to help protect their crops from fire.

The call comes after several incidents in the county over recent weeks which have seen hundreds of acres of standing crop destroyed. Four fires are known to have begun while farmers were harvesting crops and three of these involved farm machinery, two combine harvesters and a baler.

Now fire officers have joined forces with colleagues from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to remind farmers to make sure their machinery is well maintained and serviced before it’s used to harvest crops.

Farmers are also asked to plough fire breaks around the edge of their fields where possible, particularly in high acreage areas of standing crop, to prevent multiple fields being lost in the event of a fire.

Matt White, Fire Safety Lead, said: “We’ve seen several fires recently where farmers were harvesting crop as a fire has begun due to malfunctioning machinery; we’d urge farmers to reduce their chances of suffering a fire at the hands of their equipment by making sure all machinery is well serviced and maintained.

“During these incidents we’ve had fantastic support from farmers, who have worked alongside firefighters to prevent the fires from spreading by ploughing fire breaks around the blazes and bringing water for crews to use.

“We’d urge farmers with large areas of standing crop to think about routinely ploughing strips around the edge of the fields to prevent any fires spreading. We understand you may not want to waste valuable space to creating these fire breaks but they could ultimately save you losing hundreds more pounds worth of crop.”

Farm machinery at a recent crop fire. Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue

Farm machinery at a recent crop fire. Credit: Staffordshire Fire and Rescue

Jeremy Lowe, NFU Staffordshire county adviser, said: “Our farmers are working hard to ensure business carries on as usual, which means producing the food that feeds the nation, but we are facing tinderbox conditions due to this remarkable run of hot weather.

“We would urge farmer to take extra precautions given the increased risk and there are practical steps they can take.

“The NFU would also urge everyone out and about enjoying the iconic British countryside to act responsibly and avoid lighting fires, ensure cigarettes and barbecues are put out properly and not to release sky lanterns or let off fireworks.

“Please follow the Countryside Code and report any fires or any activities which could cause fires to the emergency services.”

The following advice from NFU can help farmers reduce the risk of fire during harvest:

  • Ensure you have fit for purpose and checked fire extinguishers with every vehicle during harvest
  • Consider cultivating firebreaks around fields after harvest
  • Make sure machinery is chaff free, serviced and in good condition
  • Have a tractor and associated requirement ready to cut a fire break if necessary
  • Keep a full water bowser or tank nearby when harvesting
  • Regularly check and maintain open water supplies for firefighting
  • Remind employees to be careful with cigarettes and matches while harvesting.