Blaze destroys 125 tonnes of straw in suspected arson attack at Potter Heigham farm

Gordon Playford next to the smouldering straw bales after a fire at Post Office Farm in Potter Heigh

Gordon Playford next to the smouldering straw bales after a fire at Post Office Farm in Potter Heigham.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

An 84-year-old farmer has lost 125 tonnes of straw in a suspected arson attack.

Gordon Playford has been farming for more than 70 years in Potter Heigham and previously in Somerton.

On Sunday evening a blaze destroyed hundreds of bales of straw.

Mr Playford, a livestock farmer who lives at Red Roof Farm, in Potter Heigham, said: 'I had just carted all my best straw out of the barn to Post Office Farm, because I wanted to use the other barn to put the sheep in.'

The fire service were called by a member of the public at around 6pm and were on the scene within ten minutes. Crews from Martham, Stalham and Gorleston worked for six hours to tackle the fire and dampen the smouldering hay.

Mr Playford was not aware of the fire for over an hour, 'When I got the news my son had already got there and moved the cattle,' he added.

He said he was thankful that no people or animals were hurt.

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Paul Rice, a North Norfolk district councillor for the area, said: 'I noticed the flames when I was going through the village and thought 'that is a damn big fire'. The flames were going twice the height of a house.

'It was pretty fortunate that people rallied around quickly to rescue the animals. There was a brilliant response from local farmers and like minded people.'

He added that there had been straw fires before in the village but it is not a regular occurrence.

Mr Playford said: 'It was obvious that someone set alight to it. There was no electricity or machinery there to cause a fire. It's not very nice when you think people can do that. We have built this farm up from a small farm. The straw was going to last until harvest.' Mr Playford said he wanted to thank his son Ken and grandsons Fred, William and Sam, who helped to move the cattle and save some of the straw.

A county council spokesman said that the fire service was treating the blaze as a deliberate ignition.

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