Blazes will cost farmers thousands

The fire at Hadston.
The fire at Hadston.

DESTROYED buildings, damaged property and thousands of pounds-worth of straw and hay up in smoke – these are the scenes of devastation after major fires erupted at two north Northumberland farms in less than 24 hours.

And, with mystery surrounding each blaze, arson has been suggested as a possible cause.

Dunstan Hill  Farm Fire - the scene afterwards

Dunstan Hill Farm Fire - the scene afterwards

The havoc started at Dunstan Hill Farm, near Embleton, when flames engulfed a number of outbuildings.

Fire crews were scrambled to the scene just after midnight on Monday to tackle the blaze, which was described as ‘massive’ by an eyewitness.

Just over 16 hours later, crews were called to a second fire, which had erupted in a barn at Hadston Farm, ‘lighting up the night sky for miles around’, according to one onlooker.

Now, a couple of days after the fires, the damage at both farms is clear to see.

Hadston Farm Fire - the scene afterwards

Hadston Farm Fire - the scene afterwards

Roger Brown, from Lucker, looks after the day-to-day running of the Dunstan Hill site, which is owned by his uncle Alex, who farms in Aberdeenshire.

Speaking at the scene on Tuesday, he told of his ‘utter surprise’ at what had happened and said that the total cost of destruction could reach £100,000.

“We have lost about 300 tonnes of straw and 100 tonnes of hay, while the big square baler is a write-off. We could be looking at up to £9,000 of hay and £24,000 of straw, while the baler is about £18,000, and then there’s the sheds,” he said.

Mr Brown added that the fire was so big, he could see the glow from eight miles away as he drove to the farm and described the gutted remains as ‘a mess’.

He said: “We don’t know how it started. It does seem suspicious.

“There was nothing in the shed to make it start. We don’t think it was an electrical fault.”

Crews from Alnwick, Amble, Seahouses, Belford and Pegswood were called to the incident and spent most of the night bringing the fire under control.

Andy Railton, north station manager for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, was called out to the inferno, which he described as ‘significant’ and ‘substantial’.

But the drama was not over.

At around 6.20pm later that day, fire crews were called into action to attend the blaze at Hadston Farm, which is on Grainger PLC-owned land.

Once again, the damage was severe, with around 300 tonnes of straw lost.

Farmer Robert Howie, who has been a tenant there for the last 10 years, is sure that the fire was started deliberately.

“There is no other way it could have started. I suspect it was arson,” he said.

“By the time we got there the whole shed was thoroughly alight. The roof was completely destroyed.

“I don’t know the cost of what we have lost, we haven’t got that far yet,” he added.

Crews from Alnwick, Amble and Pegswood were called to the scene, following a large number of calls from the public, and contained the fire.

Appliances were in attendance throughout the night.

Mark McCarty, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s group manager for the south east, attended the blaze and said that the building was ‘well alight’ and had been burning for some time.

The A1068 roundabout to Hadston Road and Ladyburn Way was closed for a period while the fire was being dealt with.

A day after the fire, a spokesman for Grainger PLC said: “Investigations are ongoing by the fire brigade and there is always the possibility that it was set on fire but inquiries are ongoing.”

No people or livestock were injured in either incident.

Mr Railton said that investigations were ongoing to establish the cause of both fires and inquiries would be made to see if there was any possibility of the two being linked.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said that the blaze at Dunstan Hill Farm was not thought to be suspicious but inquiries are ongoing.

He added that inquiries at Hadston Farm were also continuing.

Anyone with information about either fire is asked to call police on 101 ext 69191.