Fire service issues safety advice to farmers following recent barn blazes

STAFFORDSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service is urging farmers to review their fire safety following recent unseasonal barn fires.

The call comes in the wake of fires in barns in the Hilderstone and Cheddleton areas which happened over the last two weeks. 

Fire Safety Lead, Matt White advises farmers storing hay in barns to ensure they have done everything they can to keep their buildings safe from the risk of fire.

He said: “A barn fire can have a devastating effect upon a farm. Hay is highly combustible so if it catches fire it will burn very easily and can spread quickly

“Barns full of hay are the perfect environment for a prolonged blaze. The hay acts as fuel for the fire and it will continue to feed it. At times the safest tactic to employ is a controlled burn. This is where firefighters concentrate on preventing the fire from spreading rather than extinguishing it until enough of the hay has burned off and it becomes safe to tackle the fire,”  he added.

Fire officers have joined forces with the national Farmers Union (NFU) to get the message to farmers about fire prevention. 

Jeremy Lowe, NFU Staffordshire adviser, said: “Farm fires are lethal, they put farmers and their stock at great risk as well as destroying buildings, feedstuffs and machinery. 

“Any fire, deliberate or accidental, can bring a farm business to a standstill – causing many thousands of pounds worth of damage and leaving a huge clear up operation. 

“The NFU and our members work closely with the fire service, police and other authorities and the right guidance is vital, in case farmers are in the awful position of having a blaze at their business.

“Some fires can be avoided and we would urge members to consider fire service advice and put practical measures in place on farm to reduce the risk.” 

Following the advice below could reduce the risk on a farm: 

1.       Remove hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting. Ensure it is dry before storing to prevent spontaneous combustion – many fires are caused by storing damp or wet hay. 

2.       Store hay and straw away from other buildings especially those containing fuels or chemicals and separate from livestock. Store in stacks at least 10 metres apart and ensure there is sufficient space between the top of the stack and the roof lighting. 

3.       Only carry out hot work, i.e. welding or grinding, in clear areas. 

4.       Electrical safety checks should be carried out regularly, especially in areas where straw or hay is stored. 

5.       Ensure any fuels, chemicals and hazardous materials are stored in clearly labelled containers. They should be locked away in locations away from other buildings. 

6.       Have designated areas for smoking away from combustible materials and ensure cigarettes and matches are extinguished properly. 

7.       Keep escape routes clear at all times and keep all areas free from rubbish, oily cloths and other combustible materials. 

8.       Ensure that your family and employees know what to do in the event of a fire; make sure everyone knows where the nearest phone is. Carry a mobile phone at all times, especially if working alone. 

9.       Keep firefighting equipment in good working order and ensure it is serviced regularly. Ensure it can be accessed easily at all times and that everyone is aware where it is located. 

10.   Make sure that the entrance to your farm is clearly sign posted and keep all access routes clear for emergency vehicles.

Police are investigating last week’s barn blaze at Basford Bridge Lane, Cheddleton, which is being treated as arson. Anyone with information is asked to contact Staffordshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.