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In a co-ordinated and integrated approach in maximising the effectiveness of reducing the number of farm fires, NFU Cymru has teamed up with the three Welsh Fire Services to launch a new campaign to reduce the number of farm fires in Wales.
The new all Wales campaign is set to be launched at next week's Royal Welsh Show. Speaking prior to its launch Ed Bailey NFU Cymru President said, "A farm fire is a potentially devastating event. Not only a threat to human and animal life, not to mention buildings, feedstuffs and machinery, a fire can literally bring a farm business to a standstill - causing many thousands of pounds worth of damage.
"Fire safety fits well with NFU Cymru's Farm Safety Campaign and we will support the fire service and encourage our members to request a free farm safety check."
The campaign has been launched following publication of claims statistics from leading rural insurer NFU Mutual which show that the number of farm fires in Wales more than tripled in 2011. NFU Mutual, which provides cover for more than two thirds of the farmers in Wales, reported 39 farm fire claims in 2011 compared with 11 in 2010.
"We're very concerned about the sharp rise in fires on Welsh farms," said NFU Mutual Chairman, Richard Percy.
"Apart for the danger to people and livestock, farm fires can destroy a life's work building up a farm. While insurance can cover the financial losses, it can't compensate for loss of life and we urge farmers to take up the fire prevention and control advice provided by the fire services and our own subsidiary, NFU Mutual Risk Management Services."
Gareth Griffiths, Senior Fire Safety Manager, from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said, "Our advice to farmers is to pay particular attention to the fire risk they face and to do everything they can to protect themselves, especially as fewer people work on farms with increasingly bigger and more complicated machinery, larger storage buildings and significant fire hazards such as large hay and straw stacks, fertiliser, fuel, bottled gas and pesticides - often stored for use in the months to come.
"The result is that valuable assets are often concentrated in close proximity to many more heat and ignition sources. You should take time to review the risks of fire on the farm. For instance, any farm buildings which are near to roads, public footpaths, playing fields or other public areas and taking action to secure them against would-be vandals, arsonists or careless walkers.
"All three Fire and Rescue Services in Wales are offering farmers free advice on the risk from fire in their homes and on the farm as well as arson prevention advice and guidance on controlled burning and grass fires.
"Obvious precautions include maintaining and cleaning all machinery and vehicles plus ensuring all electrical wiring and systems are regularly checked - especially those in outbuildings used for storing crops or rearing stock.
"Hay and straw are often the first things to catch alight. Despite being highly combustible, they are so commonplace on most farms that the fire hazard is often forgotten. Sensible precautions include:
- Hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting;
- Hay and straw should be stored;
- separately from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery
- in stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least 10m apart - don't put it all in one place
- separately from livestock housing or farm dwellings
- away from tracks/lanes/roads/footpaths whenever practicable
- record temperature regularly."
"With arson the number one cause of farm fires, farm security is also crucial. For livestock farmers, the key thing is to keep people away from indoor stock as far as possible. Security systems such as CCTV can help but dogs and geese can also give an effective early warning of intruders. Local Farmwatch schemes will also prove very effective in monitoring suspicious activity or spotting a fire at an early stage when it's easy to deal with and has not caused too much damage. If you see someone acting suspiciously around a stack or barn - report it!"
Staff from all three Welsh Fire Services will be on hand throughout the Royal Welsh Show, on the NFU Cymru stand, to provide information and advice on farm fire safety and will arrange free on-farm fire assessments. If you are unable to attend you can request a farm safety check from the fire service through calling 0800 169 1234.