Reducing the Risk of Cornish Farm Fires

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Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service is teaming up with rural insurance firm Cornish Mutual in a bid to cut the number of farm fires in the county, it has been announced today.

Every year Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service crews attend on average 36 farm or agricultural building fires. Most are destroyed by fire, often with the loss of large amounts of stock, straw, hay, farm machinery, chemicals and even livestock.

A new campaign and partnership has been launched by the two organisations to raise awareness of the potential dangers of farm fires and highlight the steps that farmers can take to reduce the risk of fires starting.

New protection legislation for farm buildings has recently been introduced and Cornwall’s arable and dairy farmers, in particular, are being targeted in this latest safety drive.

Fire safety officers will also be visiting 10 arable and dairy farms throughout Cornwall with Cornish Mutual’s Inspectors so they can get a better understanding of the farming sector and develop practical advice aimed at reducing fire risk.

Fire safety legislation applies to all farm buildings where people work. Farmers are required by law, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to carry out a fire risk assessment of their farm buildings. They must record the findings if they employ five or more people.

Every year Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service crews attend on average 36 farm or agricultural building fires. Most are destroyed by fire, often with the loss of large amounts of stock, straw, hay, farm machinery, chemicals and even livestock.

Latest statistics from farm insurance experts Cornish Mutual show that over the last year* they handled over £390,000 worth of claims involving farm fires. Barn fires claims alone came to almost £280,000, whilst tractor fires caused over £43,000 worth of claims to be made.

Mitch Portman, Cornish Mutual’s Area Manager for Cornwall, said: “Farm fires are surprisingly common and there are practical steps that all landowners can take to minimise the risk of fires occurring. It is a good idea for farmers to consider carrying fire extinguishers on all their vehicles – it really makes a difference and this is just one simple measure that people can take.”

He added: “As well as the physical damage, fires can also lead to significant financial losses and huge disruption to businesses. Fires cause more damage to industrial and commercial property than any other hazard and good prevention and insurance cover can provide peace-of-mind.”

Kevin Thomas, Area Manager with Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service, added: “Fires in permanent agricultural buildings currently top our league table. Until now this type of premises has never been proactively regulated and possibly has the greatest impact on Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service in terms of cost, resources and the safety risk to our fire-fighters.”

He added: “In the past, some barn fires tackled by the Service have taken well over 24 hours to deal with. Agricultural fires are often complicated by fertilizers and chemicals which cause toxic or poisonous fumes – this regrettably led to the death of a fire-fighter in 1994.”

As part of the partnership approach, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and Cornish Mutual have now published an eight-page fire safety advisory booklet for farmers in the Duchy to help them comply with the new fire laws.

The leaflet includes five detailed steps to completing a fire safety risk assessment, information about what to do should a fire break out, dangerous substances, reducing the risk of arson, steps to minimise the risk of fires and a fire safety checklist.

To get hold of a copy of the guide, people are asked to visit Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service’s website http://www.cornwall.gov.uk, by email enquiries(at)cornwall(dot)gov(dot)uk or by calling 0300 1234 100.

For more information about Cornish Mutual visit http://www.cornishmutual.co.uk.

For more information contact:

Ryan Martinez        
Deborah Clark Associates    
01208 77900        
07887 746569        

Notes for editors:

*November 2009 – November 2010

Although staying true to its origins in agriculture and farmer’s insurance (around two thirds of Cornwall’s farmers are Members), Cornish Mutual now provides household, commercial, events and personal accident insurance to Members of all descriptions, living or working throughout the South West countryside.

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