Farmers need to take precautionary measures during harvest and beyond in order to reduce their chances of being a victim of arsonists, warns the Country Land and Business Association.
Straw stacks are typically targeted during July and October, and these fires cost farming businesses thousands of pounds – as well as causing huge disruption to rural communities and motorists.
CLA eastern regional surveyor Claire Wright said: “Deliberate straw stack fires destroy important material used in arable and livestock farming, as well as a valuable renewable energy source – it’s not just a by-product.
“These fires can spread rapidly threatening buildings, livestock, machinery, and potentially human lives.
“Deliberate fire setting causes untold problems and the people involved do not give any thought to the consequences.
“It is difficult and expensive to replace the lost materials, lives are put at risk and fire service personnel can be tied up for hours when they may be needed elsewhere.
“The CLA urges farmers to not only follow the guidance on siting stacks offered by the police and fire service, but to also engage with the local community and ask them to report any suspicious activity on land near stacks to the police.”
Recommendations offered to farmers include positioning stacks away from public roads and visible places, and splitting large stacks into smaller ones with a ten-metre gap down the middle so that if a fire occurs there is a chance to move unburnt straw away.
Farmers are also being advised to avoid stacking bales near buildings with livestock inside so if a fire starts animals are not endangered, and to remove hay and straw from the field as soon as possible – if it has to be left overnight consideration should be given to blocking access routes to it.
Any information regarding suspicious activity near stacks should be reported by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.