The perfect cocktail of the driest July for nearly 100 years, high temperatures and an early harvest is causing dire consequences for farmers across the south west.

The number of machinery, crop and barn fires is rapidly escalating, as are wildfires.

This week alone has seen numerous combine harvester fires, some of which have spread to standing and cut crops.

There has been a rise in the number of barn fires, putting paid to hay and straw stores, and in some cases, putting livestock at risk.

Temperatures are set to rise again this week, predicts the Met Office.

While forecasters are not expecting any temperature records to be broken, the south west is still set to see temperatures in the 30sC towards the end of next week as a result of high pressure coming in from the Atlantic.

There is no significant rain forecast so the threat of drought continues.

Met Office chief forecaster Steve Willington said: “As the high pressure builds there is very little meaningful rain in the forecast, especially in those areas in the south of England, which experienced very dry conditions last month."

There are steps that farmers can take to reduce the risk of fire during harvest.

Thanks to the long and laborious hours, it's easy to let chaff and dust build up in farm machinery, which can then catch fire if parts overheat.

These ten tips from NFU Mutual can help to prevent combine fires:

  • Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots in combines and balers
  • Switch off engines and ensure moving parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance
  • Always stop to investigate hot-running engines or bearings
  • Put in place a system for keeping in contact with lone workers
  • Keep mobile phones on your person – not left in a tractor or pick up cab
  • Make sure that drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that machines will safely pass under wires
  • Make sure there is a fire extinguisher on the combine – and that it is regularly maintained
  • Clean dust regularly from grain dryers – and ensure that all staff running the drier are fully trained and know what to do if fire breaks out
  • Ensure that fire extinguishers are readily accessible
  • Make sure ladders and platforms used for maintenance are in good condition and a safe system of work is in operation