Every year in the UK approximately 1,700 farm buildings and 66,000 acres of grassland are destroyed by fire. Half of these are started deliberately, either as an act of vandalism or a fraudulent insurance claim.
A serious fire on a farm can affect the financial stability of the business plus cause enormous damage to the environment. It is calculated that 40% of businesses that suffer arson attacks never trade successfully again.
Farms are particularly vulnerable to arson, as their isolated location, open boundaries and readily ignitable hay and straw make them an easy target. While arson attacks on farms and smallholdings may be difficult to eliminate, a number of simple precautions can substantially reduce the risk of attack.
Things to consider
- Remove hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting
- When storing hay and straw make sure that it is
- Stored separately and away from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery
- Make sure that large stacks are spaced at least 10 metres apart
- Store hay and straw separately from livestock housing
- Make sure petrol, diesel and other fuels are stored in secure areas and that storage tank outlets are padlocked
- Ensure that fertilisers and pesticides are kept under lock and key. The Health and Safety Executive can provide further advice on the storage and transportation of fertiliser, particularly ammonium nitrate
- Make sure that rubbish is disposed of safely and on a regular basis
Assessing the risk
A quick and simple survey will identify areas where an arsonist could strike. If there are certain areas you are unsure about, ask your local Dedicated Neighbourhood Police Officer or insurance advisor for assistance.
Your survey may reveal the need to:
- Provide, repair or replace damaged fencing or gates
- Install intruder sensors and security lighting
- Maintain security of outbuildings
- Replace or re-site security and warning notices to make them visible
- Maintain fire-fighting equipment and keep it in good working order
- Use dogs and geese to give an effective early warning of intruders
- Prepare a fire routine and action plan, and ensure that all farm workers know what to do in the event of fire
If a fire breaks out
- Call 999 and request fire service
- Only attempt to fight the fire if it is safe to do so
- Send someone to the farm entrance to direct the fire service
- Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread
- Prepare to use farm machinery to assist the fire service if they ask
Preventing fires in grassland and standing crops
The danger of fire during hot weather is self-evident, but many fires occur in spring and late summer due to carelessness.
To help prevent these types of fires
If you allow others to make use of your grassland:
- Do not allow the lighting of open fires or barbecues
- Only allow camping and picnicking in selected areas
- Ensure cigarettes and other flames are extinguished carefully, by providing disposal points
- Provide litter bins for bottles and other rubbish and empty them regularly
- Ensure parents supervise their children
- Regularly check and maintain open water supplies for fire fighting
- Ensure ‘Fire Danger’ warning signs are in place
Most farms are easy to access, and this makes total security impossible, but there is a lot you can do to reduce the risks and it doesn’t necessarily involve extra expense.