Firefighter tackling tractor blaze on farm© Tim Scrivener

Farmers and landowners are being urged to heed new advice to avoid being targeted by arsonists this harvest season.

An investigation by Farmers Weekly found the cost of fires had surged to more than £50m/year in 2014, eclipsing the total cost of rural crime.

See also: Guide to preventing fire in poultry sheds

As harvest gets under way, the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and Nottinghamshire Police have issued new guidelines farmers in a bid to stop them falling victim to the costly 
crime:

  1. Take note that straw stacks are typically targeted during July and October
  2. Try to stack hay and straw away from public roads and visible places
  3. Split large stacks into smaller stacks with a 10m gap down the middle. If a fire breaks out, you may get chance to move unburned straw away
  4. Avoid stacking bales near buildings with livestock inside so if a fire starts animals are not endangered
  5. Remove hay and straw from the field as soon as possible. If it has to be left overnight you might consider blocking access routes to it
  6. Engage with the local community and ask them to report any suspicious activity on land near stacks to the police
  7. Report suspicious behaviour round farms to 101 and only emergencies to 999, potentially saving not only lives, but livestock and machinery too.

CLA eastern regional surveyor Claire Wright said: “The summer time and harvest are exceptionally busy times on farms in the county and across the region.

“Deliberate fire setting causes untold problems for farmers – and the people involved show no thought of the consequences.

“Deliberate straw stack fires destroy important material used in arable and livestock farming – it’s not just a by-product.

“They can spread rapidly, threatening buildings, livestock, machinery, and, potentially, human lives. 

“These fires also keep fire and police service personnel tied up for hours when they may be needed to attend an emergency elsewhere.”