Farm fires warning in Shropshire

60 firefighters fought a fierce farm fire in Shropshire in April when flames leapt to 40ft high and 150ft across as 1,000 large bales of elephant grass were ablaze creating a temperature of 1,000 degrees

Shrewsbury and north Shropshire farmers are urged to be aware of fire risks at harvest time and also take steps to help prevent arson. Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and the NFU have issued advice to farmers and growers to avoid costly farm fires around the county - including Shrewsbury and north Shropshire which has suffered the highest number of farm fires in the county. Around 1,600 farm buildings and thousands of acres of land and crops are destroyed by accidental and deliberate fires in the UK each year. “Many fires on farms can be prevented if farmers are aware of potential fire hazards,” said Derek Taylor, Fire Crime Officer with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. "A farm fire can have a dramatic impact on the business with the loss of stock, buildings and potential asbestos hazards. “They also stretch fire service resources with crews on the scene for many hours to ensure that a fire does not spread to other buildings,” he warned. Firefighters attended a total of 64 farm fires in Shropshire since April last year with 23 of them caused deliberately. Since April there have been 18 incidents. In Shrewsbury there have been 12 incidents and in north Shropshire 4 incidents over a 12 month period. Most fires involve stacked and baled crops along with barn fires. Straw, grass, silos, farm buildings and equipment have also gone up in flames. Oliver Cartwright, NFU Shropshire spokesman, said: “While many farmers do make efforts to protect their crops, equipment and buildings, some fires can be avoided and we would urge them to take precautions and be aware. “More than a quarter of farm fires in the county last year were also deliberate and we would urge the rural community to be vigilant and farmers to tighten security where possible. “While we appreciate it is a busy time of the year we would urge our members to carry out simple checks and follow the fire service’s advice." Farm machinery should be maintained, work areas with combustible materials controlled, hay and straw removed from fields as soon as possible after harvest and stored, taking care to ensure that it is dry to prevent spontaneous combustion - a common cause of fire in stacked and baled crops. Fuels, fertilisers and pesticides should be stored in secure areas, annual electric safety checks done, farm security assessed and any fire fighting equipment maintained with any pools or ponds able to be used for fighting fires. Farmers may need to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment under the Fire Safety Order 2005.

12th August, 2011