Farmers are being urged to keep up with the maintenance and cleaning of equipment as the cost of farm fires increased by 40 per cent last year.

Farm fires cost the south west £8million in 2020 last year and electrical faults were a major cause of the fires, found rural insurer NFU Mutual.

Extreme weather and dry conditions also contributed to the huge national cost of farm fires.

Fire spreading from electrical cabinets underline the importance of regular inspections by competent professionals, in addition to regular dust-downs and ensuring clear space around control panels.

Fires involving increasingly popular biomass boilers were an alarming new trend identified from the insurer's claims data as more farmers look to alternative fuel sources.

However, a system of servicing and maintenance, along with good housekeeping and waste disposal procedures can help mitigate risks.

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Agricultural vehicle fires accounted for an additional £20million during 2020.

Fires writing off combine harvesters - which can cost up to £850,000 - prompted the insurer to encourage farmers to fit accredited fire suppression systems with discounted agricultural vehicle premiums to help save lives and property.

Evita Van Gestel of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd works with farmers across the UK to help reduce the risks in their fields and farmyards.

She said: “It’s vitally important to have an emergency plan in place to protect everyone who might live on, work at and visit the farm.

“Farm fires put lives at risk as well as causing devastating damage and putting the future of farm businesses under threat.

“Farmers are currently under huge pressure to keep the country fed and adapt their businesses to changes in agriculture, so regularly reviewing your fire risk assessment and acting on your findings is vital to reduce the risk of seeing the fruits of your hard work going up in smoke.

“Most fires are preventable by carrying out routine maintenance and inspection on heating systems, electrical installations and machinery, and controlling hot works within farm workshops.

"Implementing and maintaining good standards of housekeeping, particularly around the storage of combustibles and flammables such as hay, straw and fuels, will also reduce the risk of a fire spreading.

"Some insurance policies, for instance NFU Mutual’s Poultry Farm Warranty, will have mandatory requirements relating to electrics and ventilation.”