Fire services around the country are all reporting that due to the extended period of sunshine and increased temperatures, the resulting dryness of the vegetation and ground is causing them additional problems. This has led to Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) attending a significant number of fires involving crops, grass and stubble, often utilising numerous resources to extinguish the fires. In these conditions fires can rapidly spread and destroy large areas of farmland and crops.
There are a number of measures that can be taken which may prevent a fire from becoming a significant event.
- Always stop to investigate hot-running bearings and engines
- Ensure you have fit for purpose and maintained fire extinguishers with every vehicle during harvest
- Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hotspots in combines and balers
- In breezy conditions, consider harvesting from a downwind position and in an upwind direction thus ensuring if a fire does occur it is not driven by the wind through standing crops
- Ensure staff know how to isolate equipment and what to do in the event of a fire.
- If a fire does break out, call the Fire Service immediately giving an exact location and best access route for fire appliances. Ideally post staff who can direct crews to the incident
- Have a tractor and associated equipment ready to cut a fire break if necessary
- If safe to do so, plough or rake around the fire to create a fire break. This will slow the progress and spread of the fire
- Keep a full water bowser or tank nearby
- Consider cultivating fire breaks around fields after harvest
- Combine in blocks to break up larger fields and reduce spread and consider combining in a downhill direction on sloping fields.
Station Manager Graham Kewley said ‘Dorset and Wiltshire are significantly rural counties and rely on agriculture and associated businesses as a major part of the economy. Fires pose a threat to the livelihoods of many in the rural sector be that through loss of crops, machinery, buildings or livestock. Coupled with that the significant resources, effort and water supplies required to deal with field fires, any work to prevent fires is beneficial to the whole community. Following these simple guidelines can help to reduce the impact of fires on those living and working in rural areas’.
He also added ‘An early 999 call is vital as many farmers seem to try to put it out themselves for too long before calling for help. Farmers are not charged for our attendance’.
For further guidance on farm fire safety, visit www.dwfire.org.uk/business-fire-safety/fire-risks-on-farms/farm-machineryor call 01722 691717 and ask to speak to the Fire Safety Team.