Hay fire warning for farmers

Posted 07/08/2014 14:10:36

Thanks to the warm weather, many farmers across the region have experienced a good harvest this year- and North Wales Fire and Rescue Service is appealing to hay makers to take simple steps to ensure their hard work does not go up in smoke.

Since April, firefighters in North Wales have been called to 10 fires involving hay spontaneously combusting.

Brian Williams from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service explains more: "As many have had a good year for hay making, this may result in more bales been kept within a confined space, therefore; there is a higher risk of hay stacks spontaneously combusting.

"Fire is possible in hay whether it's loose, baled or stacked, stored inside or outside. Hay fires are a danger at any time, however, in stacked bales the hay's moisture content is 20 percent or higher, and in large stacked bales the hay's moisture content is more than 16 percent."

Hay fires usually occur within six weeks of baling, and Brian has the following tips for reducing the risk of fire:

"Daily checking hay stacks is essential - if you detect a slight caramel odour or distinct musty smell, chances are your hay is heating," he said.

"At this point, you will need to keep monitoring the hay's temperature. At 55c a chemical reaction begins to produce flammable gases that can ignite if the temperature goes high enough."

Heating occurs in all hay above 15 percent moisture, and it generally peaks at 51c to 54c in three to seven days with minimal risk of combustion or forage quality losses. Then the temperature in a stack should decrease to safe levels in the next 15 to 60 days, depending on bale and stack density, ambient temperature, humidity any rainfall the hay absorbed.

Brian added: "This year, it may be prudent to consider not piling all of your harvest in one area of the yard or field. If it does overheat to the point of creating a fire, you don't want to lose the entire harvest. Fires can damage or destroy hay, barns and equipment, and cost thousands of pounds.

"In the event of a fire, call the fire and rescue service immediately. Do not move any of the hay. This would expose the overheated or smoldering hay to oxygen and may result in a fire raging out of control."

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