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Midlands worst-affected region for farm fires with cost of £13.2m, says NFU Mutual

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The cost of farm fires in the UK totalled £49.1m last year ­— a rise of nearly 6% compared to 2018 ­— according to NFU Mutual.

In the Midlands, the total was £13.2m, making it the worst-affected region by cost.

The insurer is urging farmers to check their fire precautions and have emergency plans in place.

Farm stock. (43160459)
Farm stock. (43160459)

Electrical faults accounted for over half the total last year, followed by arson which rose by 40% nationally to £9m.

“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 Ltd (RMS).

“The scale of the damage we are seeing shows it’s 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.

“Many farmers are feeling particularly vulnerable this year and with straw in short supply after the poor harvest, more and more are using remote camera systems linked to mobile phones as well as fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists.”

NFU Mutual have issued the following fire checklist.

Fire Prevention:

  • Get electrical systems and equipment regularly inspected by an 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 (such as hot vehicle engines, overhead lights) and at least ten metres 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, for example, download the what3words app
  • 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 crews to the fire
  • Prepare to evacuate livestock but only if safe to do so should the fire spread

Additional analysis from the insurer indicates that 2020 is on track to see an even higher number of incidents and costs, in a year that saw farmers battle unforgiving weather which led to a poor harvest.

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.

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