Fire safety importance highlighted after arsonists set alight 150 bales

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

Farmers are being urged to assess the risk of fires after crews extinguished 150 hay bales that were set alight on a farm in Staffordshire.

The importance of fire control plans are being underscored following the incident, which police believe was deliberate.

Crews attended a farm near Penkridge, South Staffordshire on 19 August, after arsonists set 150 hay bales on fire.

Firefighters used hose reel jets to contain and prevent the blaze from spreading, with the fire reaching 20 feet in it’s height.

An investigation into the cause of the incident was later determined as deliberate.

Responding to recent farm fires elsewhere in the UK, Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service said farmers should continually assess the risk.

It follows barn fires near Ulverston and Flimby in the last month, which the service said were caused by “spontaneous combustion”.

“Hay bales can catch fire due to a build-up of mould caused by moisture in the hay from time of baling or from being rained on,” it explained.

“Hay naturally insulates, so once the hay reaches 55°C, a chemical reaction creates flammable gas.

“If the temperature of the hay continues to rise, the heat can cause the flammable gas to combust.”

According to the most recent statistics from NFU Mutual, large-scale farm arson attacks surged from £4.7 million in 2020 to £8.4 million in 2021.

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

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

“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.