Farmers urged to think fire safety this harvest

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is calling on farmers to think fire safety this harvest season after a farmer sadly lost his life while at work earlier this year.

Crews from Chichester, Midhurst, and Bognor Regis were called to a field off Salthill Road in Fishbourne on 18 May after a tractor had struck an overhead power line and caught fire. The tractor operator sadly died at the scene.

WSFRS’s Rural Engagement Officer Ben Applin said: “We want to ensure that the local farming community do not have to endure any tragic loss of life again and are putting resources in place to raise awareness to prevent such incidents in the future.

“Working near power lines can be very dangerous. To prevent incidents like this it’s vital that all agricultural workers are aware of any nearby power lines and know the maximum height and reach of the vehicle they are operating.

“If a vehicle makes contact with a power line, the advice is to stay in the cab and try to drive clear. In an emergency call 105, or if there’s a fire dial 999.”

This is just one example of the numerous agricultural incidents the service attends each year. At harvest time, farmers face an increased risk of fire which can result in a loss of expensive machinery, buildings, livestock, crops, and personnel.

Ben added: “Farm fires threaten lives and livelihoods in rural communities, but they can be prevented by storing combustible materials like hay and straw safely and ensuring farm vehicles and machinery are well maintained.

“We also recommend installing firebreaks between crops to help slow the progress of a fire and having a secure water supply, such as a vacuum tanker, on hand during harvest”.

“It’s important to have an emergency plan in place and ensure everyone on the farm knows what to do in the event of a fire. Farmers can assist our crews in an emergency by making them aware of hazards on their land, keeping access routes in, out and around the farm clear as well as making note of the locations of nearby hydrants.”