Spate of suspicious straw stack fires prompts warning

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A SPATE of recent fires involving stacks of hay and straw, believed to have been caused by arsonists, has prompted calls for greater vigilance amongst the farming community.

Numerous arson attacks involving stacks have occurred recently in North and East Yorkshire, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said, and its warning comes as rural insurer NFU Mutual revealed how costly fire related insurance claims were in the last year.

According to the insurer’s figures, farm fire claims totalled £44.7m nationally in 2014, with claims in the North East of England, including Yorkshire, the third highest at £5.9m.

While the most common cause of farm fires last year was electrical faults, accounting for a third of claims, arson and mechanical faults were the next most common causes.

Lucinda Douglas, York East county adviser at the NFU, said: “There have been a number of arson attacks involving stacks on the Wolds and also one or two north of Scarborough in the last week or so, so we are warning farmers to be extra vigilant.

“It’s worth giving some thought to how visible and accessible their stacks are, as well as how close they are to other buildings containing livestock, machinery, chemicals and, of course, people. You may wish to consider fencing off straw stacks, making sure they are at least ten metres from buildings and removing hay and straw from fields as soon as possible after harvest.

“It’s heartbreaking when you get to a time of the year when farmers work around the clock to get this kind of thing happening. Straw is a very important commodity for farmers to look after their animals with through the winter.”