Farmers in the southwest have been the victims of an onslaught of farm fires this summer.
Extreme heat, drought and early harvests have coincided, resulting in fire departments receiving hundreds more calls than normal each week.
Field, barn and machinery fires have ravaged the area and led to a high number of claims, as observed by south-west agricultural insurer Cornish Mutual.
“A number of claims were for major fires, causing damage valued at £100,000 or more,” said Dom Jones, head of loss prevention at Cornish Mutual.
“Our close ties to farming and rural communities mean we understand the devastation that farm fires can cause to businesses, homes and wildlife, and their impact on area fire services. Major fires can be a huge drain on resources, requiring multiple devices and taking several days to fully extinguish.
There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce fire risk, Dom explained: “Start with a risk assessment to identify the hazards and the people at risk, think about how you will mitigate those risks and include the staff training and an emergency plan.
“As part of your emergency plan, consider how you will move livestock to safety if a fire breaks out and whether emergency vehicles have clear access to all your buildings and farm fields.”
Farm vehicles are also a fire hazard. “Vehicles must always be kept in good working order. Faulty or damaged parts can create a sparking hazard and connecting retrofitted equipment directly to the battery terminals can cause an overcharge, resulting in a fire. Instead, connect all implements via ISOBUS connectors or sockets in the cab.
“It is also highly recommended to regularly clean flammable materials such as dry grass or trapped straw.”
The possibility of arson should not be ignored, he added: “If you store a large amount of hay or flammable materials on the farm, consider restricting access, installing CCTV and motion-triggered lights to act as a deterrent and to introduce a temperature monitoring system.”
It is important to review insurance policies regularly to ensure that any changes to the farm have been taken into account.
“It may seem obvious, but you need to make sure all of your assets are included in your insurance plan and at the current amount.”
The recent rise in inflation is also a problem, as home and vehicle values may have changed. If these higher values are not reflected in your schedule, it could result in lost revenue in the event of a claim.
So farmers who haven’t already done so should review their fire safety measures and insurance policies, even if the weather gets colder.