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Farmers' leaders urge caution as 'tinderbox' conditions continue

PUBLISHED: 14:12 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:12 13 July 2018

Firefighters tackle a straw stack fire in Horsford, Norfolk Picture: ADRIAN JUDD

Firefighters tackle a straw stack fire in Horsford, Norfolk Picture: ADRIAN JUDD

Archant Norfolk 2010

Farmers' leaders have urged the public to be on their guard as 'tinderbox' conditions continue, heightening the threat of wild fires.

With straw and hay stacks beginning to appear across East Anglia’s increasingly hot and dry landscape, they are also urging farmers to take a few moments from their busy harvest period to consider serious fire threats to their businesses.

Some East Anglian farmers have been bringing out water bowsers following a spate of crop blazes as combines, surrounded by hot, dry, dust, bring in this year’s harvest.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Guy Smith, who farms in one of the driest parts of the country at St Osyth, near Clacton-on-Sea, said: “With much of the country affected by this remarkable run of weather - hot weather, high temperatures and lack of rain – we’re seeing widespread tinderbox conditions.

“That’s leading to a significant increase in the numbers of wild fires such as the ones on Saddleworth Moor, Winter Hill and Marlow and that risk is only going to increase as crops ripen over the next two weeks.

“The NFU is urging everyone out and about enjoying the iconic British countryside to act responsibly and avoid lighting fires and ensure cigarettes and barbecues are put out properly. Please follow the Countryside Code and report any fires or any activities which could cause fires to the emergency services.

“Farmers should also take extra precautions given the increased risk such as having checked fire extinguishers on all vehicles involved in the harvest campaign and to put firebreaks in around fields as soon as they are harvested.”

He added: “We also want National Park Authorities, councils, Areas of Oustanding Natural Beauty and Natural England to work in partnership to mitigate the risks.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East rural surveyor Tim Woodward urged the public to report any suspicious activity around straw stacks and called on the public to avoid the use of sky lanterns.

“Straw stack fires destroy important material used in arable and livestock farming as well as threatening buildings, livestock, machinery, and human lives,” he said. “We don’t want to spoil people’s fun, but these lanterns are bad news. They pose a fire risk and can be fatal for animals.”

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