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Arsonists and electrical faults behind £49.1m spike in farm fires

Farm fires left the industry with a £49.1million bill in 2019 – a five year high.

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Arson attacks rose by 40 per cent at a cost of £9m, but electrical faults were the biggest cause, accounting for half of the total last year.

 

“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,” said Andy Manson, managing director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services (RMS), which carries out risk assessments for farms and provides health and safety advice.

 

“The scale of the damage we are seeing shows it is more important than ever to reduce the risk of a fire.

 

“Farmers not only have to be mindful of the usual farm hazards such as electrical equipment, combustible material and fuel but also protect themselves from the alarming rise in arson damage.”

 

Vulnerable

 

Mr Manson said many farmers were feeling particularly vulnerable this year, especially with straw in short supply.

 

He said some farmers had invested in remote camera systems linked to mobile phones as well as fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists.

 

With electrical faults causing £25m worth of damage last year, the rural insurer urged farmers to have regular electrical inspections, not to overload power supplies and have enough plug sockets to avoid using multi gangs and other adapters.

 

Damage

 

Although the number of farm fires last year was at a similar level to 2018 across the UK, the damage was more costly.


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The Midlands was the worst-affected region by cost in 2019, totalling £13.2m.

 

The North East of England was the second worst-affected region with fire claims costs totalling £7.6m (up from £4.7m in 2018), followed by the East of England with claims totalling £7m (down from £11.1m in 2018).

 

NFU Mutual’s initial claims 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.

 

NFU Mutual farm fire claims cost by area (to nearest £100,000).

Region

2019

2018

% change

East

£7m

£11.1m

- 37%

Scotland

£2.8m

£7.6m

- 63%

South West

£5.9m

£7.2m

-18%

South East

£5m

£5.9m

-15%

North East

£7.6m

£4.7m

62%

Midlands

£13.2m

£4.3m

207%

North West

£1.6m

£3.2m

-50%

Northern Ireland

£2.7m

£1.6m

69%

Wales

£3.2m

£0.9m

256%

Total

£49.1

£46.4

5.8%

NFU Mutual Farm Fire checklist

Fire Prevention:

Get electrical systems and equipment regularly inspected by a competent electrician

Don’t overload electrical systems – and avoid using multigang connectors

Ensure there are sufficient fire extinguishers for the size of buildings and that they are inspected regularly to ensure they are in the right location and condition

Ensure staff and adult family members know the location of fire extinguishers and how to use them

Reduce the risk of arson by fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings

Use CCTV cameras on straw stacks and farm buildings, along with warning signs to deter arsonists

Store hay and straw away from equipment that could give off heat (e.g. hot vehicle engines, overhead lights) and at least 10m from other buildings.

Put in place an evacuation plan for staff and livestock

Store petrol, diesel and other fuels in secure areas

Pre-plan hot works such as welding in clear areas

Ensure you have safe, designated smoking areas

Ensure you can direct emergency services to the exact location of fires e.g. download the what3words app which pinpoints specific 3m x 3m locations

Ask your local Fire and Rescue service to visit to check water supplies and access routes

If a fire breaks out:

Make sure everyone evacuates the immediate area and remains in a safe location

Call the Fire and Rescue Service without delay

If possible, send someone to the farm entrance to direct the Fire and Rescue Service to the fire

Prepare to evacuate livestock but only if safe to do so should the fire spread

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