SHROPSHIRE firefighters are using drones to help them tackle flooding and the increasing amount of farm blazes in the county.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service have bought two new drones which they say help with the strategic planning of tackling floods and fires.

Marc Millward, the service’s head of prevention, protection and response said that there had been a ‘significant increase’ in barn fires this summer.

He said that during June and July this year there were nine agricultural fires in the county. That compares to seven agricultural fires during the last three summers combined.

Mr Millward told the authority, at their monthly meeting, that he believed it could have been caused by the county experiencing hot weather earlier in the summer this year.

“Farmers might have been making hay while the sun was shines and brought in the hay early and the moisture content can add to spontaneous combustion,” he said.

“At the time of June and July we put out targeted information for farmers and rural communities to try and reduce the number of fires.”

Mr Millward said that barn fires are not as simple as some people think due to farm equipment inside including cylinders.

“On the face of it they seem simple and some people wonder why so many resources are needed, it is due to the complexity of it,” added Mr Millward.

Mr Millward said that the fire service was working with rural Shropshire groups and the National Farmers’ Union to convey safety measures for farmers, particularly during the summer months.

The meeting also heard that several of the county’s retained firefighters are also farmers and use word of mouth to pass on safety messages within the industry.

The head of prevention said that along with two new drones the authority have invested in training for a wildfire tactical advisor

“Climate change is having an impact and staff do see more and more flooding events at times of year you wouldn’t normally expect,” added Mr Millward

“There are also more wildfires and more prolonged periods of outside fires.

“The drones allow us to get a bird’s-eye incident and the wider area of flooding in Shrewsbury and Ironbridge so we are better prepared of what is going on.

“Shropshire Hills is a wide and vast area and drones give us a different perspective of wildfires and a better way of taking action.

“Drones also give us a better understanding of what is happening and adds learning.

“One drone is fitted with an infra-red camera which allows us to direct resources to the main fire. We use the drone in conjunction with the command officer allowing us to plan.”

Mr Millward says that the fire service has also supplied every officer with lightweight personal protective equipment and have been investing in fire appliances with a lager water tanks.

“It is a rural county and we sometimes have difficulties accessing large volumes of water,” he added.”