Surge in cost of fire damage hits region’s farmers

The scene of a farm fire in Great Paxton earlier this month. Picture: CFRS

The scene of a farm fire in Great Paxton earlier this month. Picture: CFRS - Credit: Archant

The East of England has been named as the worst region in the country for farm fires - with the £11.1million damage rising by a staggering 225 per cent over the year.

Arsonists were responsible for nearly a quarter of all blazes according to the latest figures from insurance firm NFU mutual which showed the number of farm fires were at a four year high.

Locally arsonists were believed to have been responsible for fires at Great Paxton, Needingworth and Longstanton in the last few months, while a fire in bales at Toseland was thought to be accidental.

The insurer said that its latest figures, for 2018, showed the total cost of farm fires totalled £46.4million across the UK, a rise of 27.5 per cent and the east was the worst hit region with claims coming to £11.1million - a huge increase of 225 per cent over 2017.

It said last year's prolonged dry summer contributed to the number of blazes, with spreading fires being the most frequent cause on 28 per cent, followed by electrical faults on 26 per cent and arson on 24 per cent.

Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual rural insurance specialist, said: "Fire remains one of the greatest risks to the lives and property of farmers.

"Our latest figures serve as a crucial reminder to be alert to the danger and have plans prepared and shared with family members and staff. It is possible to manage the risks by taking all possible steps to prevent fires breaking out, and to have clear plans in place to evacuate people and livestock safely in the event of a fire."

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The insurer said Met Office figures showed 2018 was the driest summer since 2003 and hottest since 2006, leaving farms vulnerable to fires, with tinder dry crops and overheating combines and farm machinery.

Ian Jewitt, managing director of NFU Mutual risk management services, said: "Electrical faults are the biggest cause of farm fires across the UK and we'd advise farmers to schedule regular safety checks of electrical equipment to help minimise that risk. Consider fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists and make it harder for fires to spread by keeping hay and straw at least 10m away from farm buildings."

He said: "To enable you to fight a small fire safely, keep fire extinguishers in good working order and make adults living and working on the farm aware of where they can be found and how they should be used."