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Farm fire claims on the rise according to NFU Mutual

By David Porter

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Unprecedented high temperatures last summer saw the number of farm fires remain high in Scotland in 2022, totalling £6.6m according to new figures from NFU Mutual.

Farm fire incidents have shown an increase across Scotland.
Farm fire incidents have shown an increase across Scotland.

Across the UK insurer NFU Mutual dealt with over 2200 farm fire claims involving growing crops, buildings and farm equipment in 2022 compared to over 1800 in 2021.

The UK cost of farm fires totalled £83.5m.

With temperatures soaring past 30°C last summer, tinder dry conditions saw a large number of fires, causing damage to crops and buildings but also putting animals and lives in danger.

In addition, UK agricultural vehicle fire claims, recorded separately by NFU Mutual, increased by 13 per cent last year.

Of this, combine harvesters were the farm vehicles hardest hit by harvest fires, with the number of fires doubling in 2022 to 258.

Higher repair and replacement costs led to a rise of 211 per cent to £11.1 million in the value of combine fire claims.

With the weather set to become more extreme in the future with drier and hotter summers on the horizon, NFU Mutual is urging farmers and crofters in Scotland to prepare a comprehensive farm fire prevention plan and fit fire suppressors to combines.

Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Manager for Scotland, said: “The high number of farm fires in 2021 and 2022 highlights how important it is for Scottish farmers to prepare for very hot and dry summers in the future.

“For weeks on end last summer, the countryside was so dry that a spark or overheating combine bearing could lead to a fire, engulfing the machine and spreading to the surrounding crops.

“Farmers did a great job putting in place bowsers of water in their fields so fires could be tackled quickly, and ploughing fire breaks across fields to stop fires spreading – but even these measures weren’t enough to prevent hundreds of combines, tractors and balers, together with thousands of acres of crops, being destroyed.

“Farm fires put lives at risk as well as causing disruptive and devastating damage to rural businesses, so it is essential farmers have fire plans in place.”

Andy Manson, Head of Risk Management Services at NFU Mutual, added: “With scientists predicting hotter, drier summers, it makes sense to plan ahead for this possibility and put measures in place to help prevent farm fires and make them easier to put out.

“In practice, that means making sure all plant and vehicles are regularly maintained and checked for wear and damage – particularly to electrical parts and wiring.

“It’s also important to have a regularly-revised fire plan covering evacuation procedures for buildings, managing livestock, maintenance and cleaning schedules for machinery and training and inspection procedures for fire alarms and extinguishers.

“For highly vulnerable kit, including combines and balers, rigorous attention to maintenance and cleaning is essential. NFU Mutual also recommends fitting fire suppressors to combines and offers premium discounts to policyholders who fit approved systems.”

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