Farmer's fire risk upped by carelessness and flammables

Article date: 25 May 2011

Careless campers’ barbecues, discarded cigarettes, broken glass and combustible fuels are all raising the risk of farm fires, says Aviva.

The warning from the UK’s largest insurer comes as the UK’s countryside is still suffering from the driest April on record.

UK average temperatures were the warmest since 1910 while rainfall was 10% lower than normal. This, says Aviva property risk manager, Allister Smith, only heightens the potential problem of fire: “Farms are at obvious risk from fire because of their location among grassland and heathland. However, many of the fires that occur in dry spring and summer months are usually due to carelessness and can be avoided altogether by adhering to a few simple precautions.

“So it is important to be vigilant and keep an eye out for discarded or broken glass containers, which obviously pose a particular risk as they magnify the sun’s rays and can cause parched ground to ignite, as well as cigarettes that can often be thrown carelessly out of car windows.

“But that is not the only problem at a time of extremely dry weather. Having fuels and agrochemicals on an agricultural property presents a serious risk, as both are highly combustible. And, unfortunately, the remote nature and open boundaries of most farm buildings means they are vulnerable to arson attacks and good security is very important.”

Farmers who have diversified their businesses to include short break holiday facilities should also be mindful of campers’ and caravanners’ behaviour on site.

Smith adds: “People allowing camping or caravanning on their land should ensure they enforce rules about the use of barbecues and open fires, as these can lead to fire.”

Introducing a few sensible precautions combined with extra care should prevent many fires involving barbecues and camp fires, such as:

  • Barbecues and open camp fires must not be permitted close to crops or extensive grassland.
  • Only allow camping and caravanning in monitored areas. Where barbecuing is permitted, all equipment should be placed on level ground to prevent it tipping over – preferably on concrete or bare soil and sited well away from sheds, hedges, crops, dry vegetation and buildings.
  • Barbecues must be left to cool fully before attempting to move the equipment or the removal of any spent ash.
  • Only proprietary fire lighters should be used to light the barbecue, never petrol.
  • Great care must be exercised when disposing of spent ash – ideally a designated and clearly marked lidded metal container should be provided for this purpose and which should be stored outside and away from the sides of buildings, or alternatively the cooled ash should be wetted down before placing onto bare soil.
  • Cylinders for gas barbecues should be kept out of direct sunlight and operated in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Never leave barbecues or camp fires unattended and they should be fully extinguished after use.
  • Provide fire fighting apparatus and regularly check and maintain water supplies for fire fighting

Aviva has published detailed guidance on fire risk assessment for businesses to help identify, manage and reduce the problem, while the Department for Communities and Local Government has created useful fire risk information PDF (2.12MB) for businesses with animal stables and livery yards.

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If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Rebecca Holmes - Aviva Press Office Tel: 1603 685177; Mob: 07800 690731;

Jon Clements – Staniforth Tel: 0161 919 8022; Mob: 07872 118364

Notes to editors:

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group.  We provide more than 53 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with 19 million customers and one in three households has a relationship with us. Our combination of life, health and general insurance, together with motoring services from RAC, is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market.  Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top ten most valuable brands and Aviva Plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index.  In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at

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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009. 

**at 31 December 2010.

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