Campaign to fight harvest fires

07 July 2023

Firefighter walking along row of flames in an arable field

Fire and rescue services across the Thames Valley have joined forces with the NFU and NFU Mutual (NFUM) to launch a six-point plan to fight farm fires this harvest.

Farm and agricultural vehicle fires in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (BB&O) cost nearly £4 million last year, according to NFUM.

The hot dry summer last year also led to a sharp rise in harvest fires, with crop fires in the three counties destroying more than 100 hectares of crops.

Alex Nelms, NFU county chair for BB&O, said: “Our advice is to keep farm vehicles maintained at all times. This includes combine harvesters, which should be cleared out regularly.

“It’s also important to keep a serviced fire extinguisher to hand.

“If the worst happens and there is a fire on farm, having an emergency plan and staff trained on what to do is really important. It also helps to have information on how to access water supplies and have a bowser filled with water, tractor, and plough ready to create a fire break if needed.”

Reducing loss of crop and equipment

Group manager Steve Leonard, lead for wildfire in the Thames Valley, said: “Thames Valley Fire and Rescue Services are proud to work with the farming community to try and reduce incidents of agricultural fires and loss of crop and equipment.

“Last year saw an increase in fires across the Thames Valley and the UK. Even though we had an unprecedented rise in temperatures last year and climate change predictions will see this issue increase in the future, we hope the advice given with NFU Mutual and the NFU will help protect farmers’ livelihoods.”

Fire and rescue service advice

  • Ensure that all equipment is clean and well maintained
    Regular equipment blowdowns and lubrication schedules can help avoid fires within your equipment.

  • Help the fire service find you
    Provide the fire and rescue service's control centre with what3words from the entrance of your farm and wait for the first appliance. They will then ask you to guide them to the scene of the incident.

  • Know where water supplies are and ensure any hydrants are accessible
    Ensure that any available water supplies on your farm are accessible to fire and rescue crews. If you know where your nearest fire hydrant is, ensure that this is clear and accessible.

  • Make contingency arrangements
    Consider using cultivators to put in fire breaks where safe to do so. If you have water bowsers available to extinguish spot fires ensure that they are near and full of water.

  • Avoid storing bales near main roads to deter would-be trespassers and arsonists
    Store pesticides and fertilisers securely and remember it’s critical to let the fire and rescue service know if these products are involved in a fire due to the specific risks they pose.

  • Check conditions before planning harvesting activities
    This will help you identify the best time of day to start your harvesting to avoid the most extreme weather zones. Also check the wind direction and where possible harvest in the direction of the already cut crop and not the unharvested crop.

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