Press release

Fire service urges farmers to check hay bales following fires in the county

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service are urging farmers to continually assess the risk of fire on their property, following barn fires near Ulverston and Flimby in the last month caused by spontaneous combustion.

Two firefighters from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service douse hay bales with water at a previous incident

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


Tips on how to prevent or reduce risk of fire from hay bales 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.


If you do feel excessive heat coming from a bale, do not move them - churning and moving the hay supplies the bale with oxygen which can feed flames and cause the bale to catch fire more quickly. Call 999 for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service.


Ian Seel, Area Manager from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said:

“Farmers have really tight timelines 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”.


James Airey, Cumbria NFU county adviser said:

“The NFU is urging our members to check their hay bales and to contact their local fire service if they need help.  Farmers should also take extra precautions given the increased risk such as having checked fire extinguishers on all vehicles involved in the harvest campaign and to put firebreaks in around fields as soon as they are harvested.

“Our county advisers and group secretaries also work with the fire service to host events on farm fire prevention, security and access to water and these safety briefings for NFU members and young farmers remain vitally important to safeguard people, livestock, buildings and crops.”