Farm fire toll rises in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire is emerging as another hotspot for farm fires, with the county’s fire and rescue services attending 33 fires since June.

Fire officers in the region are urging farmers to take steps to protect their livelihoods after more than 30 farm blazes in less than three months.

This puts it on a similar level to Shropshire, which has seen 31 farm fires since the start of July – a number that has been described as being “a definite concern”.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said the fires had either been on farm sites or involving crops in fields.

Many of those fires were started deliberately, with most farms’ isolated locations, open boundaries and easily ignitable materials such as hay and straw making them particularly vulnerable to arson.

See more: Fires costing farming industry more than rural crime

In one incident, 60 large bales of straw were destroyed after children were seen on the stack prior to the fire being reported.

In two other cases, involving stacks of baled hay, youths were reported in the area shortly before the incident.

Arson reduction officer Andy Kirwan said: “We get called to dozens of field and farm fires each year in South Yorkshire, with many of these fires occurring around harvesting time.

“Not only do fires like this put lives at risk by potentially diverting fire engines away from other, life-threatening incidents, they also cost farmers thousands of pounds in damage.

“The maximum sentence for arson is life in prison. People do get caught and do get prosecuted, so we urge people to report arsonists to the police.”

• Remove hay and straw as soon as possible after harvesting

• Store fuels, fertilisers and pesticides securely – preferably under lock and key

• Check unoccupied and remote areas of the farm to make sure they are safe and secure

A special report by Farmers Weekly has revealed the cost of farm fires has risen by £6m over the past three years, taking it to more than £50m – which eclipses the cost of rural crime.

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