Firebugs causing misery to farmers

FARMERS say thrill seekers are identifying straw stacks to set alight to get their kicks - and they may set up operations with police to try to catch the fire-raisers.

FARMERS say thrill seekers are identifying straw stacks to set alight to get their kicks - and they may set up operations with police to try to catch the fire-raisers.

A series of stack fires since harvest has left farmers short of fodder and bedding, and thousands of pounds out of pocket.

The latest blaze, off Capel Hall Lane at Trimley St Martin, saw a huge haystack - 17 metres by 23 metres and five metres high - destroyed, yet it was hidden from the A14 and off a quiet country lane and across a field.

Brian Finnerty, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union, said it appeared the arsonists were actively seeking stacks.

He said: “It seems as if they are seeking out these stacks, identifying them and setting them alight to get their thrills or kicks.

“It is a very serious situation because this year with the harvest not being so good and the movements on animals, farmers are finding themselves short of straw for food and bedding for their animals. It's at a premium and is costing more to replace that which is lost - these are valuable crops and its awful to see them just go up in smoke.

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“We give advice to farmers but at the end of the day they need these straw stacks to be accessible so they can use them.”

Mr Finnerty said in Cambridgeshire there had been serious problems with stacks being set alight and an operation had been set up with police to try to catch those causing the damage.

He said: “If these attacks keep happening in Suffolk then we will talk to the officers there to see if we can set up something similar.

“As well as working to get arrests for these incidents, the officers have spoken to magistrates and the crown prosecution service to make sure that when people are brought before the courts the seriousness of these offences is known and they get the punishment they deserve.”

As well as the loss to farmers, the fires often put people, buildings and livestock at risk, and also cause pollution.

The stack at Trimley St Martin burned for more than 36 hours and sent a huge pall of acrid-smelling smoke over Felixstowe, while a fire at Stratton Hall, Levington, last month put hundreds of pigs at risk.

Anyone with information about the fires should to contact police on 01473 613500.

What do you think of the arsonists? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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