11 Feb 2011

Number of haystack fires in Essex increases


On the evening of the 7th February, two fires broke out within a mile of each other in Southminster, this adds to a recent succession of similar incidents, and the fires are a huge cause for concern to those in the agricultural industry.
At one incident, three-hundred tonnes of hay were burnt and the inferno affected farm machinery. The second incident at Marsh Road, saw around six-hundred tonnes of hay burn in one night.
Farmers and firefighters have raised concerns about the recent spate of haystack fires in Essex.
The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said they had noted forty-one such incidents in the past six months. In the past two weeks there have been incidents in Woodham Mortimer and two on the same day in Southminster.
A joint investigation is being undertaken between police and the fire service, and all incidents are being treated as suspicious.
The Essex Farmers Union said the high number of fires is putting extra pressure on the industry at a time when hay stocks were already low.
Of the forty-one incidents, which is much higher than normal, seventeen have been in the Maldon and Chelmsford area and primarily started between 6pm and midnight.
The chairman of the National Farmers Union in Essex, Robert Stacey, said they had come at a time when there was a national shortage of fodder following a dry summer and cold and wet winter.
“It’s going to have quite a knock-on effect with the livestock industry who rely on the straw, not only for bedding, but also for feeding,” he said.
Mr Stacey said the price of straw has increased over the past few years and is currently around £50-70 per tonne.

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