Concern over arson attacks as cost of farm fires surge to £95m

Damage from arson attacks cost £8.4m last year, and initial claims analysis suggests more incidents in 2022
Damage from arson attacks cost £8.4m last year, and initial claims analysis suggests more incidents in 2022

The cost of farm fires surged past £95 million last year, with arson attacks a growing cause for concern, new figures show.

Farmers are being encouraged to have fire control plans in place as the cost of farm fires reached £95.6 million in 2021.

Large-scale farm arson attacks surged from £4.7 million in 2020 to £8.4 million in 2021, claims statistics from NFU Mutual show.

On-farm electrical faults were the biggest known cause of blazes last year, and biomass boiler fires also continued to increase.

Andy Manson, head of risk management services at NFU Mutual, called on farmers to put fire prevention and control plans in place, such as regularly reviewing their fire risk assessment and acting on the findings.

“Farm fires put lives at risk, as well as cause disruptive and devastating damages to farm businesses," Mr Manson said.

“Most fires are preventable by carrying out routine maintenance and inspection on heating systems, electrical installations and machinery, and controlling hot works within farm workshops, etc.

“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.”

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, Hannah Binns said the rural insurer was 'very concerned' about the rise in number of arson attacks.

In September, a 23-year-old man who set three farms ablaze, causing around £750,000 worth of damage, was sentenced to four years in prison.

"[It is] a frightening prospect considering farms are not only farmers’ place of work but often their family home," Ms Binns said.

“We are urging everyone to be on their guard and improve their security to help prevent their business going up in smoke.”

How can I better protect against fire?

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services has issued farming businesses five fire safety tips:

• Have a plan in place – Put people at the heart of your fire plan and ensure everyone on site knows what to do in the event of a fire.

• Don’t mess with electrics - Electrical faults are a major cause of fire whilst electric shock can cause death or severe injury.

• Suppress the risk – suppression systems are a major game changer for the industry and play a critical role in detecting, containing and extinguishing fire.

• Keep on top of your housekeeping – Good housekeeping is essential to ensure materials and machinery are stored correctly and to eliminate dust and debris.

• Control hot work – Welding, cutting or grinding equipment, along with blow lamps and blow torches can produce sparks which can turn into fires if they hit a combustible material.