NFU Mutual urges farmers to upgrade harvest fire prevention measures

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NFU Mutual is urging farmers to upgrade their harvest fire prevention measures as latest figures show agricultural vehicle and machinery fire costs increased by 35 per cent last year.

In 2022, the cost of agricultural vehicle and machinery fires rose to £28.3million.

Many farmers increased fire prevention measures, including fitting fire suppression systems to their combines, cleaning combines more regularly and avoiding harvesting in very hot weather.

On some farms, combine fires spread into fields engulfing hectares of growing crops and putting nearby properties at risk. Farmers’ efforts to quickly use tractors to make fire breaks prevented some fires spreading.

New fire prevention advice includes extra cleaning and maintenance.New fire prevention advice includes extra cleaning and maintenance.
New fire prevention advice includes extra cleaning and maintenance.

However, these emergency measures can endanger lives, with at least three incidents where fast-spreading crop fires engulfed tractors cutting fire breaks, leaving drivers fleeing for their lives.

Following last year’s extreme harvesting weather conditions, NFU Mutual is recommending that farmers increase regular cleaning stops and consider a range of additional fire prevention measures to reduce fire risks in future very hot summers.

Following a testing programme on combine harvesters, NFU Mutual recommends P-Mark SPCR199 accredited fire suppression systems. The systems automatically trigger extinguishers if a small fire is detected in the machine. The insurer now offers premium discounts for farmers fitting recommended systems.

NFU Mutual Harvest Fire Prevention Guide

- Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots in combines and balers daily while in use and twice a day in very dry conditions

- Fit a fire suppression system that meets P-mark status to contain, extinguish and prevent fire

- Switch off engines and ensure moving parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance

- Always stop to investigate hot-running engines or bearings

- Have a plan in place to raise alarms, check team safety and direct emergency services to the fire site

- Keep mobile phones on you at all times - not left in a tractor or pickup cab

- Make sure drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that machinery will safely pass under wires

- Ensure there is a recently-serviced fire extinguisher on the combine

- Ensure the harvest team knows where the nearest water source is

- Use the what3words app to help direct emergency services to the site of fires

- Clean dust regularly from grain dryers – and ensure that all staff are fully trained and know what to do if fire breaks out

- Fully service harvesting machinery before starting work

- Keep cultivators on hand to put in fire breaks in the event of a crop fire

- Keep water bowsers filled and near harvesting operations available to tackle spot fires

- If possible, harvest crops so that the wind drives any fire in the direction of the already cut crop

- Take care when using air compressors to clean chaff to avoid the risk of from injecting air into the skin and causing bubbles in the blood stream by wearing PPE and reducing air pressure below 30psi/2.1 bar

- Check the Fire Severity Index to help avoid harvesting in peak temperatures

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