Farm fire costs trebled to £21.5m in region last year, say insurers

A farm arson in Tatterford.

Farm fires cost the East of England £21.5m in 2020, said insurers NFU Mutual - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The cost of farm fires rocketed to £21.5m in the East of England last year - making it the worst-hit region in the country, said insurers.

Rural insurer NFU Mutual is urging farmers to put new fire prevention and control plans in place after a significant rise in fire claims.

Across the country, it said the cost of farm fires rose by 40pc in 2020, but in the East of England the figure more than trebled from the £7m recorded in 2019.

Electrical faults were a major cause, with extreme weather and dry conditions also contributing, according to the firm which insures three quarters of UK farms.

It said fire spreading from electrical cabinets underlined the importance of regular inspections by competent professionals, in addition to regular dust-downs and ensuring clear space around control panels.

Evita Van Gestel, of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said: “It’s vitally important to have an emergency plan in place to protect everyone who might live on, work at and visit the farm.

“Farm fires put lives at risk as well as causing devastating damage and putting the future of farm businesses under threat.

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“Farmers are currently under huge pressure to keep the country fed and adapt their businesses to changes in agriculture, so regularly reviewing your fire risk assessment and acting on your findings is vital to reduce the risk of seeing the fruits of your hard work going up in smoke.

“Most fires are preventable by carrying out routine maintenance and inspection on heating systems, electrical installations and machinery, and controlling hot works within farm workshops.

"Implementing and maintaining good standards of housekeeping, particularly around the storage of combustibles and flammables such as hay, straw and fuels, will also reduce the risk of a fire spreading."

Fires involving increasingly popular biomass boilers were an "alarming new trend" identified from NFU Mutual’s claims data - but the insurer said good servicing, maintenance and waste disposal procedures can help mitigate risks. 

Agricultural vehicle fires accounted for an additional £20m nationally during 2020. Fires writing off valuable combine harvesters prompted the insurer to encourage farmers to fit accredited fire suppression systems.

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