Farmers warned over barn safety following fires

PUBLISHED: 13:51 21 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:24 17 June 2010

FARMERS and barn owners in the area are warned to be vigilant over barn storage and safety after a number of barn fires in Devon and Somerset during the last few weeks.

FARMERS and barn owners in the area are warned to be vigilant over barn storage and safety after a number of barn fires in Devon and Somerset during the last few weeks.

The most recent fires were at farms in Horton, Uffculme, Westbury and Torrington. All lasted over 24 hours and were severe, with the owners losing several tonnes of hay and straw.

The warning comes from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service working with rural insurers NFU Mutual

Fire Investigation Officer Bill Harvison said: "Self heating in involving straw, hay and similar materials is a leading cause of fire particularly at this time of year. We would like to remind farmers to look out for signs that bales may be overheating.

"The best way to check whether bales are overheating is to insert an extendable temperature probe into the middle of the bales.

"Other tell-tale signs include a rotting smell coming from the stack / bale, and they may also appear lower in the middle of the stack as the material rots away."

NFU Mutual spokesman Tim Price said: "The wet summer made harvesting conditions in the South West very difficult and has led to some hay and straw being stored at higher moisture levels than normal.

"It's therefore very important for farmers to regularly check hay and straw stacks for signs of overheating - and to take action if there are signs of over heating."

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service urge farmers to:

* Wherever possible hay and straw should be stored:

- Separate from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery.

- In stacks of a reasonable size spaced, at least 10 metres apart.

- Separate from livestock.

* Make sure there is a clear nameplate at the entrance to your farm.

* Store flammable materials away from fire risks

* Ensure staff are aware of emergency procedures.

* Encourage good housekeeping in regards to electrics, tidiness, workshops etc.

Farms are also vulnerable to arson attacks and simple precautions can reduce the risk of an attack:

* Store any fuels and chemicals in secure areas and storage tanks should be padlocked.

* Fertilisers and pesticides should also be kept locked away.

* Rubbish should be disposed of safely and on a regular basis.

* Always make sure your gates are secure and locked at night.

* Consider installing CCTV and/or burglar alarms.

If a fire does occur do not try and tackle the fire yourself, call 999 and keep your postcode and grid reference available to ensure a quick response by fire crews.

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