Fire crews have issued a warning to farmers following a spate of arson attacks on farm buildings and crops this harvest.
Straw stacks have been deliberately targeted across several counties in a number of attacks, causing huge financial losses.
Barn fires and thousands of acres of crops and stubble have also gone up in flames.
In Northamptonshire, police are hunting arsonists who deliberately torched a large bale of hay, causing £20,000 worth of damage at Eastlodge farm, Ecton, Northampton.
— Northants Police (@NorthantsPolice) August 25, 2016
In Suffolk, a dozen fire crews tackled a blaze on farmland near Bury St Edmunds on Tuesday (23 August).
This followed a stubble fire measuring 100m by 50m in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday (20 August) .
Sixty firefighters also battled a blaze in Westleton on Saturday. A fire spokesman said 8ha of stubble, two stacks of straw, farm machinery and a caravan were involved at Red Cap Farm.
‘Like a tinder box’
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said fields of stubble were going up “like a tinder box” in East Anglia following the recent dry spell. In many cases, arson is suspected, he added.
“Our thanks go out to the fire service for their efforts. We appreciate the serve they provide in keeping people safe.”
Mr Smith urged any farmers leaving entry-level stewardship (ELS) schemes to think “long and hard” before ploughing up margins around fields.
“If it makes your fields a bit safer when you have combustible materials lying around there’s an advantage of keeping them,” he said.
Mr Smith took the picture below of a field fire in York while he was at a service station near York on Thursday (25 August).
In Hertfordshire, fire crews tackled a “large area of stubble” on a farm in Welyn on Monday evening. In Essex, police are investigating a field fire – being treated as arson – that broke out the same evening on a farm in East Tilbury.
Danger to livestock
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and Avon and Somerset Police have been investigating a number of farm incidents.
One hundred bales of hay and 300sq m of stubble were destroyed in a recent field fire in Dunster.
“We take incidents of arson extremely seriously,” said chief inspector Mark Edgington, local policing commander for east Somerset.
“They have huge financial implications for farmers in addition to the enormous danger they pose to people and livestock.
“We will work with our partners to identify those responsible and they will be dealt with robustly.”
Anyone who has information about farm arson is asked to call police on 101.
Eight tips to prevent farm fires
1. Ensure machinery is well maintained and serviced regularly.
2. Remove hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting.
3. Store hay and straw away from other buildings, especially those containing fuels or chemicals.
4. Carry out electrical safety checks regularly, especially in areas where straw or hay is stored.
5. Fuels, chemicals and hazardous materials should be stored in clearly labelled containers and locked away in locations away from other buildings.
6. Maintain firefighting equipment in good order, service it regularly and ensure it can be accessed at all times.
7. Designate smoking areas away from combustible materials and ensure cigarettes and matches are extinguished properly.
8. Keep escape routes clear at all times and keep all areas free from rubbish, oily cloths and other combustible materials.
(Courtesy of Avon and Somerset Police)