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Fire safety on the farm

Every year fire destroys thousands of acres of crops, buildings, countryside and wildlife habitat. Some fires are started deliberately, but some are due to carelessness. Fires can also start by machinery striking flints and stones during the normal course of harvesting.

A serious fire on a farm can affect the financial stability of even the most well-run business. 40% of businesses that suffer arson attacks never trade successfully again.

Farms are particularly vulnerable to arson. Their isolated location, open boundaries, readily ignitable hay and straw stacks make them an easy target. Read our guidance on arson reduction.

Some simple precautions can substantially reduce the risk of fire:

  • Hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting
  • Beware of dropping lit cigarettes 
  • Do not leave glass bottles lying around in grass or woodland. These can cause fires of huge proportions during the warm dry weather as a result of the sun's rays being concentrated and focused by the glass.  

Report any concerns

If you have any information about a suspicious fire call Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111 - your call is free and completely anonymous. You can also report it online on Crimestoppers website (opens new window)

Assessing the risk

A simple quick survey around the farm will identify areas where an arsonist could strike. Your survey may reveal the need to

  • Provide, repair or replace damaged fencing or gates
  • Install intruder sensors and security lighting
  • Maintain the security of out buildings
  • Replace or re-site security and warning notices
  • Maintain firefighting equipment and check that it is in good order
  • Prepare a fire routine and action plan and make sure all farm workers know what to do


Storing hay and straw

To help reduce the risk of fire hay and straw should be stored:

  • Separate from other buildings, particularly those housing fuel, agrochemicals and machinery
  • In stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least 10 metres apart
  • Separate from livestock housing
  • Petrol, diesel and other fuels should be stored in secure areas, storage tank outlets should be padlocked
  • Fertilizers and pesticides should be kept under lock and key
  • Refuse should be disposed of safely and on a regular basis


Preventing fires in grassland and standing crops

The danger of fire during hot weather is self-evident, however, many fires occur in the spring and later summer due to carelessness by people passing by or even trespassing on farm land. It is indeed difficult to maintain secure boundaries when your land meets public roads and paths etc. but there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the spread of fire on your land should a fire start. This also becomes important when harvesting near buildings or expensive farm machinery.

  • Keep farm machinery chaff free, serviced and in good condition
  • Try and have a tractor with machinery free, to cut a fire break should the need arise
  • Have a full water bowser or tank in close proximity when harvesting
  • Regularly check and maintain open water supplies for firefighting
  • Remind farm workers of their need to be careful with cigarettes and matches while harvesting


If fire breaks out...

  • Call the Fire and Rescue Service without delay
  • Only attempt to fight the fire if it is safe to do so
  • Send someone to meet and direct the Fire and Rescue Service to the fire
  • Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread
  • Prepare to use farm machinery to assist the Fire and Rescue Service