Help fight fires - plea to farmers

RICHARD BATSON Farmers have been urged to be extra vigilant in trying to prevent countryside blazes as they work on the tinderbox fields of East Anglia.And as firecrews across the region battled another flurry of farmland fires yesterday, farmers were also given tips on DIY firefighting to nip blazes in the bud.

RICHARD BATSON

Farmers have been urged to be extra vigilant in trying to prevent countryside blazes as they work on the tinderbox fields of East Anglia.

And as firecrews across the region battled another flurry of farmland fires yesterday, farmers were also given tips on DIY firefighting to nip blazes in the bud.

The warning came after a hectic weekend which saw Norfolk crews called out nearly 400 times in three days - four times the normal workload - with many of the “shouts” being to burning stubble, crops and countryside.

Norfolk Fire Service risk manager Graham Joy said many were caused by sparks from farm machinery - stones getting drawn into combines and balers, and sending out sparks.

“Farmers have to harvest this time of year, but even the heat from engines and exhausts can start a blaze in the very dry conditions,” he said. Mr Joy asked farmers to try to stop engines overheating by ensuring filters were kept clean.

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Farmers should also be prepared to tackle fires if they did start - by having water or extinguishers to hand.

“All fires start small, so if you have an extinguisher or a few gallons of water it could help nip it in the bud,” he said.

He said farmers could use their bowsers or crop sprayers by filling them with water and having them near working machinery.

“They could even use their slurry tanker. It might smell a bit, but it's wet and it will work,” he added.

Mr Joy praised the efforts of fire crews and control room staff who had been “challenged” by the dozens of calls flooding in hourly.

Firefighters were working in difficult conditions, wearing full protective gear in high temperatures.

Fires tackled yesterday included corn and stubble at Little Massingham, which was tackled by five engines, stubble near Fakenham, and others at Brome and Swaffham.

Six fire engines were called to Wood Rising, near Dereham, at 7.30 last night after a major field fire.

In north Suffolk crews dealt with two fires, just five miles apart - 500 tonnes of chicken manure at Shadingfield, near Beccles, and a field fire at Spexhall, near Bungay, believed to have been sparked by a farmer burning grass, which is being investigated by officials.

One of the biggest weekend fires was on farmland at Edgefield, near Holt, which took 12 hours to put out.

Mr Joy said the blaze, which involved 16 crews, was particularly tough to tackle because it ranged over a square mile.

Firemen managed to save a piggery but a mangled barn frame and scorched fields showed the scale of the devastation.