11 August 1995

Fire claims at worrying level

FARM fires have destroyed crops and machinery across the country as farmers tackle the harvest in tinder dry conditions.

The NFU Mutual Insurance Society says fire claims for combine harvesters and standing crops are at a "worrying level". The continuing dry weather has also stretched fire services, who have had to deal with more than 180 calls a day in some areas.

In East Anglia last week the NFU Mutual received about nine fire claims a day. These included two for new combines, worth more than £100,000 each, which were totally burnt out. Essex fire service received 188 calls last Wednesday, 76 for grassland and cereal fires.

In Hampshire several crop fires in the Basingstoke area covering more than 24ha (60 acres) are reported to have caused more than £30,000 worth of damage. Hampshire fire service said it been taking more than 140 calls a day, with stubble and crop fires accounting for most of them.

In the north east 50 fire claims were reported to the NFU Mutual last week. Several are estimated to have caused more than £50,000 worth of damage when standing crop fires spread to farm buildings and homes.

The midlands region also recorded a big increase on last year with seven combine fires in one day alone. Wiltshire fire services report blazes covering about 80ha (200 acres) as the dry weather allowed fires to spread rapidly.

A spokesman advised farmers not to work at the hottest time of day if at all possible and to plough a strip around field edges to act as a fire break.

An NFU Mutual spokesman said that, despite their inclination to keep going, farmers needed to stop and make regular maintenance checks on combines. He added that they could also have a "flextinguisher" fitted to combines for about £400 and qualify for a policy discount of up to 15%. &#42

Liz Mason

The aftermath of a combine fire at Arthur Adams Mill Farm, Gayhurst, nr Milton Keynes. The fire took a big chunk of Cadenza wheat (see left).