'Some idiot set fire to it' - farmer fears blaze was started deliberately

Firefighters at a straw fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Firefighters at the fire in a large barn at Winfarthing - Credit: Denise Bradley

A farmer fears a massive fire which destroyed a large barn, straw and machinery was started deliberately.

Firefighters from Diss, Hethersett, Long Stratton, East Harling , Wymondham, Harleston and Watton were still on the scene of the blaze on Lodge Drive, Winfarthing, hours after it broke out in  the early hours of Saturday.

Eric Cole, whose family has owned Lodge Farm for generations, said it had destroyed tonnes of straw, along with his combine harvester and tractors.

Firefighters at a straw fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Firefighters at a straw fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing - Credit: Denise Bradley

"The combine would be £400,000, going that way," he said. "The building's wrecked, that's another £150,000 - £200,000.

"The barn is 50yds long so it's a big barn, a very big barn.

"It's nowhere near the road, there's nothing in there that could set fire to it. Some idiot has been here and set fire to it."

Police and fire appliances in attendance at a straw fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing. Picture: DEN

Police at the scene of the blaze - Credit: Denise Bradley

He added the barn was not alight at 3am, when a neighbour passed by, but by just after 4am it was alight on all four sides.

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Firefighters managed to save cattle from a neighboring building, some of which were due to calve.

Norfolk Fire Service has posted on social media: "We are currently dealing with a large straw stack/agricultural building fire. Residents in the Goose Green and Bunwell areas are advised to keep windows and doors closed due to a large smoke plume."

Cows enjoy a meal as the straw blazes behind them at Winfarthing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Cattle enjoy a meal as the straw blazes behind them at Winfarthing - Credit: Denise Bradley

The fire is expected to take two or three days to burn itself out. 

Police and fire investigators will not be able to begin their enquiries until it has become completely extinguished.

In comes just weeks after a barn full of straw at Spring Farm Partnership, near Taverham, was set alight.

Water is sprayed on buildings next to the straw fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing. Picture: DENISE

Water is sprayed on buildings next to the straw fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing - Credit: Denise Bradley

A spokesman at the site said: "It is gutting. You spend all summer working hard and invest all that time and money then to see it all gone for no reason." 

There were 650 deliberately-started fires in the Norfolk in the year ending June 2021. Home Office figures show arson accounted for around a third of the 1,928 fires in the county during that time.

Straw on fire in a farm barn at Winfarthing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Straw on fire in the barn at Winfarthing - Credit: Denise Bradley

Mr Cole's family has farmed at Lodge Farm for more than a century.

"There's been a farm in the family for a long, long while," he said. "I don't know exactly when they bought it, it was before the First World War."