What would you do if you saw a farm fire or wildfire and what are the risks!

Advice on farm fire and wildfire risks

A straw stack fire _55150

With the current heatwave predicted to last, there is an increased risk of wild fires such as the ones seen in Marlow, Winter Hill and Saddleworth Moor. There is always a risk of fire on farms but high temperatures, lack of rain and harvest make the risk greater.

Here’s a reminder of the key things to be aware of:


If you discover a wild fire on open land, advice from the emergency services is:

  • Get to a safe place. Wildfires can move quickly and in unpredictable ways.
  • Go further away than you think necessary and put a natural fire break between you and the fire if possible.
  • Note your location and call 999 asking for fire and rescue.
  • Follow instructions from fire and rescue.

Risk assessments

All farms are required to carry out a fire risk assessment. If you employ five or more people there is a requirement to record significant findings. See the NFU Business Guide on Fire Safety.

In field

At harvest, to reduce the risk of fire:

  • Ensure you have fit for purpose and checked fire extinguishers with every vehicle during harvest.
  • Consider cultivating firebreaks around fields after harvest.
  • Make sure machinery is chaff free, serviced and in good condition.
  • Have a tractor and associated requirement ready to cut a fire break if necessary.
  • Keep a full water bowser or tank nearby when harvesting.
  • Regularly check and maintain open water supplies for fire fighting.
  • Remind employees to be careful with cigarettes and matches while harvesting.

Hay and straw

Every year sees arson attacks involving stacks. You can reduce risk by:

  • Removing hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvesting.
  • Only baling when dry.
  • Storing separately from other buildings in stacks of reasonable size away from roads and other thoroughfares.
  • Keeping stacks a safe distance form overhead power cables. Guidance on safe distances is available from the HSE here.

Guidance on safe stacking is available here.

Public-facing messages

The NFU is underlining the dangers of wild fires and how they can be caused to the public on social media and online.

Articles on the NFU Countryside website are being used to promote the Countryside Code and the dangers of sky lanterns and what to do on discovering a fire:

Help protect the countryside this summer

Respect, Protect, Enjoy – the Countryside Code

Farm buildings

Reduce risk to farm buildings by:

  • Storing petrol, diesel and fertiliser securely.
  • Controlling refuse and disposing of it safely.
  • Making buildings, outhouses and land as secure as possible. Consider fitting alarms and CCTV if possible. If equipment is already fitted make sure that it is well maintained and in working order.
  • Prepare a plan of your farm clearly showing where dangerous materials are stored to help the emergency services in the event of a fire.

If a fire does break out:

  • Call the fire and rescue service without delay.
  • If possible, send someone to the farm entrance to direct the fire and rescue service to the fire to help save time.
  • Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread.
  • Prepare to use farm machinery to assist the fire and rescue service.

How to help the fire service access on farm water supplies

canva composite improvised dam to help fire service_56070

If a fire breaks out in field or farm and the fire service attends, access to water supplies to supplement water carried on fire engines could be vital.

Many farms will have water stored in bowsers and water tanks but using these supplies to fill up fire engines which have exhausted on board supplies is not straight forward. The outlet fittings on bowsers and farm water tanks are often not compatible with the inlet fittings on fire engines.

One solution is for farmers to have equipment to hand to make an improvised dam to collect water discharged from a bowser or tank for a fire engine to draw on.

Improvised dams can be made from three sections of ladder, a tarpaulin and rope as can be seen in the picture above. Alternatively, bales could be used to construct a structure to support a tarpaulin.

Fire engines are likely to carry ladders and tarpaulins but it could be very useful and a life saver for farmers to have additional equipment to hand just in case.

More information

Further information on fire risk management is available from your local fire and rescue service.

An example of guidance provided by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue is available here.

More information and advice is available from NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458

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