Police launch crackdown on devastating haystack fires following arson attacks in Harborough

Operation Clock is being launched to coincide with the harvest season throughout South Leicestershire and Northamptonshire

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:51 am
Updated Thursday, 19th August 2021, 11:52 am
Leicestershire Police is uniting with Northamptonshire Police’s Rural Crime Team and the county’s fire service in a new bid to crack down on devastating haystack fires.

Leicestershire Police is uniting with Northamptonshire Police’s Rural Crime Team and the county’s fire service in a new bid to crack down on devastating haystack fires.

The two police forces are teaming up to tighten security and share criminal intelligence after arsonists started at least four straw fires at farms in the Market Harborough area last autumn.

Operation Clock is being launched to coincide with the harvest season throughout South Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

There were six arson attacks in Northamptonshire and at least four more deliberate farm fires in Leicestershire last year.

They had a “significant impact on farming and rural communities,” said Leicestershire Police.

“Such reckless acts not only cost hundreds of thousands in damages to the valuable crop harvest, they also cost the fire and rescue services on average £150,000 to attend per incident.

“Through education and enforcement, the operation aims to prevent deliberate hay and straw stack fires as well as provide a joint approach to investigating suspected arsons,” said the force.

Sgt Paul Archer, of Leicestershire’s Rural Policing Team, said: “Without hay, a farmer cannot feed their animals.

“Not only is it devastating to a farmer, it can also have very significant financial implications – a haystack can be worth more than £40,000 so it can have a huge impact on farmers.”

He added: “To set fire to something which has taken a year to grow and harvest is pointless and puts lives and livelihoods at risk.

“We need the community to come together and tell us what they know.

“If you see any people or vehicles acting suspiciously, please tell us.”

PC Abbey Anstead, of Northamptonshire Police’s Rural Crime Team, said: “With the better weather comes the busiest time of year for our arable farmers as they get ready to harvest the result of 12 months of hard work.

“With this though comes its own hazards, one being hay and straw stacks being deliberately set on fire both out in the fields and on farmyards, which not only has a huge financial impact but endangers lives.

“Working with our colleagues from the fire and rescue services and Leicestershire Police, we will be promoting farm safety and providing crime prevention advice to prevent arsons as well as investigate any reports of suspected arson.”

Andy Evans, of Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service and the co-ordinator of the Arson Task Force, said: “The setting of deliberate fires needlessly puts both members of the public and our firefighters at risk of harm.

“It also needlessly diverts our resources away from other incidents where lives could be in danger.

“Setting haystacks on fire can have a massive impact on rural businesses and communities, and we will ensure we do everything we can to prevent these kinds of incidents in the first place.

“We would strongly urge people to think of the impact their actions may have, and our police colleagues will thoroughly investigate any incidents of this kind that do take place.”

Sanjay Bulsara, Station Manager Fire Protection at Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Not only do haystack fires cost farming businesses thousands of pounds, they also cause huge disruption to rural communities.

“What might look like a small fire has the potential to spread very easily and become major fires very quickly.

“These fires put our crews at risk and could also delay our ability to respond to another emergency.

“We will continue to work hard to prevent these incidents from taking place, and we encourage farming communities to take steps to protect their property from arson attacks.”

Anyone who witnesses any suspicious activity when out and about in farming and rural communities, around hay or straw stacks, is asked to call Northamptonshire or Leicestershire Police on 101, quoting Operation Clock.

If anyone has any information about a deliberate fire-setting incident, please let us know via FireStoppers, which is anonymous by calling 0800 169 5558 or visiting www.firestoppersreport.co.ukAnyone who sees a fire in progress should call 999 immediately.