Video and photo gallery: ‘It is heartbreaking when you see something like this happen’ farmer speaks out after massive Roudham fire
08:38 14 September 2012
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A devastated Norfolk businessman and farmer spoke of his heartbreak yesterday as he faced the potential loss of millions of pounds worth of animal feed and grain as well as farm machinery during a blaze at one of his warehouses.
Paul Rackham, who runs Camp Farm at Roudham, said he had lost 2,500 tonnes of grain during the inferno, which sells at £200 a tonne, and equipment stored in the warehouse including a combine harvester and trailers.
A grain dryer and the main warehouse structure may have been saved by fire crews due to the modern design of the building.
At the height of the blaze a large plume of smoke could be seen as far afield as Suffolk. Eighteen fire engines with 80 firefighters, including 65 from Norfolk – 10pc of the county’s total force – and 15 from Suffolk were called to fight the fire shortly after 9.15am.
The cause of the blaze, which created temperatures of 1,000 degrees celsius, is unknown and approximately 30 farm workers were evacuated, though there was nobody inside the warehouse at the time of the incident.
Electricity also had to be cut to 85 homes in Roudham and Bridgham shortly after 10am because power lines feeding the properties ran within metres of the warehouse and were in danger from the fire. Power was restored shortly after 4pm.
Staff from the Environment Agency were also called, though no pollutants were believed to be involved.
Fire engines from East Harling, Thetford, Attleborough, Diss, Hethersett, Watton, Hingham, Long Stratton, Wymondham, Earlham, Dereham and Harleston in Norfolk were joined by Suffolk crews from Brandon, Ixworth and Eye during the second major incident for fire crews in as many days.
On Tuesday, 110 of Norfolk’s 800 firefighters were called to a large fire in a barn and horsebox at Manor Farm, Cockthorpe.
However, Roy Harold, assistant chief fire officer for Norfolk Fire Service, said there was no danger to fire cover across the county as crews could be drafted in from elsewhere.
He added the main control room was in constant touch with crews at the scene through vehicle tracking, which enabled commanders at fires to liaise with their equivalents in the control room.
Mr Harold said the fact the fire was on the Norfolk/Suffolk border meant crews could be called on from Suffolk.
Thatcher’s son Mr Rackham, who is a prominent businessman and farmer in the Norfolk and Suffolk area and grew up in Peasenhall, said the 3,800sqm warehouse, one of 15 at the site, had stood at the Roudham Road site for 15 years and housed various types of feed including biscuit meal, chipped potatoes and grain.
He could not say exactly how much the damage was likely to cost, but said the warehouse itself was worth £2m.
“This is the first fire I have had at the farm.
“The grain sells at £200 a tonne and there was also a combine harvester and trailers inside, so it is heartbreaking when you see something like this happen,” he said.
Mr Harold said fire crews could be needed at the scene for days to dampen down the flames and ensure the fire could not reignite, but added the damage was reduced by the latest fire safety measure in place at the warehouse.
The warehouse had plastic roof lights which were designed to expand without dripping in the event of a fire to allow heat to escape.
Mr Harold added as the heat left the building from one end, the fire crews could then put water in through a gap in the corrugated metal structure to start putting out the flames.
Neighbouring warehouses were also positioned a safe distance apart so if a side wall of a burning warehouse collapsed it would not affect the next door warehouse and cause the fire to spread.
Mr Harold said: “For us, this is our day job, though it is at the bigger end of the incidents we attend, but for the occupier of this site it is a disaster and particularly with the economy as it is at the moment we would much rather work with businesses to contain fires.
“We would much rather not have the fire in the first place.”