CUMBRIA Fire and Rescue Service are urging farmers to check hay bales on their property, following barn fires near Ulverston and Flimby in the last month caused by spontaneous combustion.

The fire service have provided tips on how to prevent or reduce the risk of fire from hay bales.

They include:

  • Removing hay from fields as soon as possible after harvesting and ensuring that it is dry before storing it.
  • Storing hay away from other buildings, especially those that store chemicals, fuels, fertilizers, and livestock.
  • Storing hay in stacks at least 10 metres apart and with sufficient room between the stack and roof lighting.
  • Checking the bales regularly for any heat.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue say not to move a bale if you feel excessive heat coming from them because churning and moving the bale with oxygen can feed flames and cause the bale to catch fire more quickly.

Ian Seel, Area Manager from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: Farmers have tight deadlines to harvest and we know that these timelines can be very weather dependent.

“We had some great weather in May and June which provided farmers with the opportunity to harvest earlier than normal, and we fully appreciate that they have to take these opportunities when they can.

What we don’t want to see if farmers losing their lives or livelihoods to fires that are avoidable.

“I would urge farmers to continuously assess the risk of fires starting on their property including arson prevention, separating other ignition sources such as heaters from within storage areas and monitoring hay bales for any excessive heat being generated”.

Hay bales can catch fire due to a build-up of mould caused by moisture in the hay from the time of baling or from being rained on. Hay naturally insulates, so once the hay reaches 55 degrees Celsius, a chemical rection creates flammable gas. If the temperature of the hay continues to rise, the heat can cause the flammable gas to combust.

People are advised to call 999 if they witness this.