Farmers are being warned to be vigilant after a spate of farm fires in Shropshire caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to crops and property.

Landowners were left with huge clean-up operations from 25 farm fires reported across the county in just five weeks.

While some of the blazes were started deliberately, others were caused by machinery faults and spontaneous combustion due to the hot weather.

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To help reduce the risk of further blazes, the NFU and Shropshire fire service are warning farmers to take extra precautions to protect their crops, livestock, machinery and buildings.

“Each year in the UK approximately 1,600 farm buildings and thousands of acres of land and crops are destroyed by fire,” said Shropshire fire crime officer Derek Taylor.

“Most fires on farms can be prevented if farmers are aware of potential fire hazards.”

To deter arsonists, good farm security including maintaining locks, gates and fences would prevent vandals gaining access to the farm, Mr Taylor said.

Security lights, sensors and dogs and geese can also alert people to intruders, he added.

Other fire-prevention checks include controlling where people smoke on the farm, storing hay and straw away from fuel, chemicals and machinery, and regularly making sure safety equipment is working.

Preparing a plan so that workers and family members know what to do and where to go in a fire was also important.

Tips for preventing fire on farm:

  • Keep farm machinery in good working order, especially when coming out of storage
  • Control smoking in the workplace
  • Ensure work areas associated with welding and tools such as blow lamps are as protected as possible
  • Remove hay and straw from the fields as soon as possible after harvesting
  • Store hay and straw separately from areas housing fuels, livestock, agrichemicals and farm machinery
  • Put the correct signage on fertilisers and pesticides and keep them under lock and key
  • Inform the fire service if more than 25t of fertilisers and pesticides is stored on farm
  • Carry out regular electrical safety checks
  • Assess farm security regularly
  • Maintain firefighting equipment and check that it is in good working order
  • Dispose of refuse safely and on a regular basis
  • Ensure escape routes and passages are kept free from stored materials or equipment at all times
  • Ensure everyone on farm knows where the nearest phone is located and how to call the emergency services
  • Make a note of the grid reference of properties – especially in remote locations – in the case of emergency
  • Prepare a fire routine and action plan, make sure family and farmworkers know what to do.