Firefighters battle with huge field fire

MORE than 60 firefighters from across East Suffolk took over two hours to put out a wind-driven fire that engulfed 40 acres of fields in Blaxall early yesterday evening.

MORE than 60 firefighters from across East Suffolk took over two hours to put out a wind-driven fire that engulfed 40 acres of fields in Blaxall early yesterday evening.

The fire was started after a fault on one of the bailing machines set light to the fields near Station Road at around 4.50pm.

Driver Phillip Dunnett, an agricultural contractor, said: "I saw it happen and tried to put it out but it spread so quickly because it was being blown by the wind. The wind just took it away from us. I couldn't say how quickly it spread but it was very quick. Someone in the cottages alongside the land rang up the fire service because they could see that I was in trouble."

No one was hurt in the incident, although landowner Ray Herring estimated that the cost of the damage to the 40 acres of Standing Winter Barley on his land would total at around £8,000.


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Clare Hammond, 32, who lives on Station Road in one of the houses running alongside the field, was one of the people who called the fire brigade out. She said: "The flames were huge and it was really horrible. I was worried about our house because the fire was getting close. We were then getting in our car to leave but then the fire engines arrived and stopped in front of us so we knew we were safe."

"I couldn't believe how quickly it went across the fields. When I saw the fire I ran out into the field because my husband was working on the fields and I couldn't see where he was. I thought he might be covered in flames and was really worried. Luckily he was not in that field and he was okay."

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Julie Gillingwater, 37, also lives on Station Road and witnessed the fire take hold. She said: "It took about 15 minutes for the first fire engine to get here and by that time nearly the whole field had gone up. We were worried about how close the fire was getting and when the trees caught alight we got the hoses out to put it out. It was quite worrying."

In all fire engines from 10 watches attended the scene after a call to 999 was made at around 5pm. Firefighters were still dampening down the area at 7.30pm.

Assistant divisional officer Paul Seagar was in charge of the operation. He said: "Fire crews from Orford were first on the scene and they immediately called for assistance. They tried to surround it as well as they could and as other fire crews arrived we began to get it under control."

"It spread ever so quickly. There was quite a stiff breeze blowing the straw and the ground was very dry so it was spreading very quickly. Because of the size of the area it needed a lot of people spread out over the whole area to bring it under control."

"We believe that the fire was started by a fault on a farm machine and we are not treating it as suspicious."

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