High Fire Risk Continues

by Thom Jones

We’re all enjoying the heat wave that’s gripped the country since mid-May, but this exceptional dry spell does have consequences for those of us living and working in rural communities.

Wildfires, arson and spontaneous combustion are all heightened risks at this time of year but are amplified by the intense dry spell. The fires we’ve seen on Saddleworth Moor resulted in homes evacuated and the army called in to assist in what could have very easily become a fatal incident.

Fire can travel quickly, unseen and even underground through peat, grass and crops. We all have a responsibility to be careful with any ignition sources and accelerants in and around the countryside, here are my key points to remember to keep safe and to mitigate the risk of fire on your farm.

farming fire riskStraw, Hay & Harvest

Bailing hay & straw while it’s dry is imperative, almost eliminating the risk of spontaneous combustion and moving stacks out of the field as quickly as possible post-harvest reduces the risk of arson. Remember powerlines need to be taken into account so keep your stacks away from the lines to prevent danger while stacking and un stacking (some live, uninsulated lines are less than 17 feet from ground level and would prove fatal if touched) as some telehandlers reach can exceed 30 feet.

Keeping stacks away from roads and public rights of way and clear of buildings further reduces the risk of accidental ignition or fire spreading from a stack to your farm buildings or even your home.


Wildfire can spread across open land (like moorland) extremely quickly, even travelling through peat deposits underground. If you discover a wildfire follow the following steps.

  • Call 999 immediately, giving them the most accurate location possible
  • Get away from the area as quickly as possible, trying to put a road or river between you and the fire (they’ll act as a natural fire break)
  • If you think you’re far enough away, you’re not – get as far away as possible; the fire can move in extremely strange ways and can easily catch the less cautious out.

Think about banning smoking on your farm and consider where you’re working with tools generating heat. Always carry a fire extinguisher on your tractors and combines while working in the fields and have any available water bowers filled and nearby – it could be the difference between walking out of the field and leaving on a stretcher with a chard combine and a field of lost crops.

Keep safe

Thom Jones