Suspicious grass fire costs Corsham farmer £17,000

Suspicious grass fire costs Corsham farmer £17,000

04 June 2010

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United Kingdom —  Farmer Tim Barton has told how he watched firefighters tackle a massive blaze in one of his fields – costing him £17,000.

The fire started in a field of elephant grass at Manor Farm, near Corsham on Tuesday evening, forcing the closure of Park Lane and Allen Road.

Mr Barton, 57, watched as about 215 tonnes of the 10ft tall grass caught fire. The grass, also known as miscampthus straw, is sold to power stations as biofuel and powers the entire farm.

Mr Barton, who has run the farm since 1968, said: “I got a call to say the field was on fire and they just had to let it burn. It has cost me about £17,000 but I have spoken to my insurers and I think, hopefully, it will be covered.

“This is a massive headache. I reckon it was kids because it was the first day of the half term after all, and an adult would have waited until after dark if it was a deliberate attack.

“Even if I put a fence around the site they would still get in.”

Lesley Oldaker, of Bradley Road, was walking her dog with husband Julian at about 8pm and witnessed the blaze.

Mrs Oldaker said: “The grass had burnt down to about a third of its original height.”

Jennie Glew, 18, of Allen Road, said: “I live just opposite and I saw a young guy running off in the direction of the woods but I couldn’t see enough to describe him properly.”

A fire crew from Corsham was called out at 6.11pm, and MoD officials attended the scene to assist efforts to clear the area.

Mark Unwin, Wiltshire Fire and Rescue watch manager, said: “Heat was making the area dangerous. A man drove past and the air filter of his car caught fire.”

A second fire crew from Chippenham dealt with the vehicle fire, while the other crew controlled the field fire until the early hours.

The incident is being treated as suspicious and police are investigating.

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