Farmers urged to take steps to reduce arson risks

Straw stack fire at Chatteris in 2013
Straw stack fire at Chatteris in 2013
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Farmers are being advised to take precautionary measures to reduce the chances of becoming victims of arson during harvest.

CLA East, Farmwatch and Norfolk Fire and Rescue have made the recommendations to Norfolk farmers since straw stacks are typically targeted from July to October.

Fires cost farming businesses thousands of pounds – as well as causing huge disruption to rural communities.

CLA Eastern regional surveyor Claire Wright said: “The summer time and harvest are exceptionally busy times on farms in the county and across the region. Deliberate fire setting causes untold problems for farmers – and the people involved show no thought of the consequences.

“Deliberate straw stack fires destroy important material used in arable and livestock farming – it’s not just a by-product. They can spread rapidly, threatening buildings, livestock, machinery, and, potentially, human lives.

“These fires also keep fire and police service personnel tied up for hours when they may be needed to attend an emergency elsewhere.

“We hope that by raising awareness alongside Norfolk Fire and Rescue and Farmwatch we can reduce the number of these incidents.”

Norfolk Fire and Rescue is currently involved in Operation Armitage, alongside Cambridgeshire’s Police and Fire and Rescue teams, a summer campaign to crack down on deliberate stack fires.

Dave Farrow, Norfolk Fire and Rescue’s arson reduction officer, said: “Prevention is better than cure, and we advise following our advice on positioning stacks. We know it’s not always easy on a working farm, but farmers need to consider where they are siting them.

“If they are easy to see from the road, then it’s easy for an arsonist to do the same. Don’t have one huge stack, split them into smaller ones – keeping them away from buildings and overhead power cables.

“Farmers should also consider keeping a secondary copy of their Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) records in a separate location so they can be sure of having them to hand if the worst happens.

“And if farmers are considering carrying out a controlled burn, they should also let the Police and Fire Services know so they can be aware of the details in case it is subsequently reported as an emergency by the public.”

Tony Bone, director of Farmwatch, said: “Don’t let the arsonists destroy your crop – follow the guidelines and get cash, not ash.”

Any information regarding suspicious activity near stacks should be reported by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.