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Foil farm arsonists: Rural crime prevention advice

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Hay and fire safety

A serious fire on a farm can affect the financial stability of even the most well run business. 40% of businesses that suffer arson attacks never trade successfully again.

Farms are particularly vulnerable to arson, their isolated location, open boundaries, readily ignitable hay and straw stacks make them an easy target. While arson attacks on farms and small holdings may be difficult to eliminate, a number of simple precautions can substantially reduce the risk of attack.

A lighted cigarette butt thrown from a passing vehicle can mean the loss of whole fields of standing crops, while glass bottles left lying around in grass or woodland can cause fires of huge proportions during the warm dry weather as a result of the sun’s rays being concentrated and focused by the glass.

Hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting.

Assessing the risk

A simple quick survey around the farm will identify areas where an arsonist could strike.

Your survey may reveal the need to:

  • Provide, repair or replace damaged fencing or gates.
  • Install intruder sensors and security lighting maintain the security of out buildings
  • Replace or re-site security and warning notices
  • Maintain fire fighting equipment and check that it is in good order
  • Prepare a fire routine and action plan, make sure all farm workers know what to do.

Reduce the risk of fire

To help reduce the risk of fire, hay and straw should be stored:

  • Separate from other buildings, particularly those housing fuel, agrochemicals and machinery.
  • In stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least 10 metres apart.
  • Separate from livestock housing.
  • Petrol, diesel and other fuels should be stored in secure areas, storage tank outlets should be padlocked.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides should be kept under lock and key.
  • Refuse should be disposed of safely and on a regular basis.
  • Preventing fires in grassland and standing crops

Reduce the risk from passers-by

#The danger of fire during dry weather is self-evident, however, many fires occur in the spring and later summer due to carelessness by people passing by or even trespassing on farm land.

It is difficult to maintain secure boundaries when your land meets public roads and paths, for example, but there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the spread of fire on your land should a fire start. This also becomes important when harvesting near buildings or expensive farm machinery:

  • Keep farm machinery chaff free, serviced and in good condition.
  • Try and have a tractor with machinery free, to cut a fire break should the need arise.
  • Have a full water bowser or tank in close proximity when harvesting.
  • Regularly check and maintain open water supplies for fire fighting.
  • Remind farm workers of their need to be careful with cigarettes and matches while harvesting.

If fire breaks out

  • Call the Fire and Rescue Service on the 999 emergency number without delay.
  • Only attempt to fight the fire if it is safe to do so.
  • Send someone to meet and direct the Fire and Rescue Service to the fire.
  • Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread.
  • Prepare to use farm machinery to assist the Fire and Rescue Service.

Advice on reducing the risk in six easy steps:

  1. Develop a fire safety strategy and make advance plans for dealing with fire emergencies.
  2. Remove hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvest.
  3. Store hay and straw separately from other buildings, especially those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery.
  4. Store hay and straw in reasonably sized stacks spaced at least 10 metres apart and well away from livestock buildings.
  5. Talk to your local fire service- make sure they know the water pressure available on the farm and how to gain access- especially if your postcode is shared with other farm/properties.
  6. Dispose of farm refuge regularly and safely.

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