Farm fires cost £7m in the East of England last year, say insurers

Farm fires cost the East of England £7m last year, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual. Picture: N

Farm fires cost the East of England £7m last year, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Farmers have been urged to guard against arsonists, electrical faults and other ignition risks after figures revealed farm fires cost the East of England £7m last year.

Statistics from rural insurer NFU Mutual show the region recorded the third highest claims total in the country in 2019 – although it had dropped by 37pc against the previous year, bucking the national trend which saw claims leap to a five-year high of £49m.

However fire damage remains a significant risk, with electrical faults causing more than half the total damage, followed by arson.

And with 2020 predicted to see higher costs and claims after dry conditions and a difficult harvest added to the industry’s challenges, East Anglian farmers have been warned to check their fire precautions and ensure they have emergency plans in place.

“Farm fires put the lives of people and livestock at risk as well as having a huge emotional and business impact on farmers and their families” said Andy Manson, managing director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services (RMS).

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“The scale of the damage we are seeing shows it’s more important than ever to reduce the risk of a fire. Farmers not only have to be mindful of the usual farm hazards such as electrical equipment, combustible material and fuel but also protect themselves from the alarming rise in arson damage.

“Many farmers are feeling particularly vulnerable this year and with straw in short supply after the poor harvest, more and more are using remote camera systems linked to mobile phones as well as fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings to discourage arsonists.”

READ MORE: Haulier’s new owner hopes to honour his friend and mentor’s legacyFarm electrical systems operating in harsh environments often get wet, hot or dusty leading to short circuits and cable failures, said the insurer. RMS, which has a team of experts who carry out risk assessments for farms, is advising farmers to have regular electrical inspections, not to overload power supplies and have enough plug sockets to avoid using multi-gang extension leads and other adapters.

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Other prevention advice includes reducing arson risk by fencing off straw stacks and farm buildings, and using CCTV and warning signs.

Use CCTV cameras on straw stacks and farm buildings, along with warning signs to deter arsonists

According to the claims figures, the East of England was the third worst affected region by cost in the UK, behind the Midlands and the North East.

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