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Straw fire ‘catastrophic’ as mayor says town is becoming ‘lawless’

PUBLISHED: 14:57 09 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:42 11 December 2018

The large straw stack fire at Watton Airfield is being investigated as an arson. Picture: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

The large straw stack fire at Watton Airfield is being investigated as an arson. Picture: Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service

A 600-tonne straw fire which took 15 hours to finally die down has been described as “catastrophic” by the mayor of Watton.

Firefighters were called to the fire on Watton Airfield at around 4.45pm on Saturday, not leaving until just before 8am on Sunday after they had battled the raging fire, which could be seen from nearby villages.

In October 2016, another farmer saw 1,200 tonnes of straw burn on the former RAF base, while another incident in April of that year caused £20,000 worth of damage.

The latest fire is being treated as an arson by Norfolk police and Tina Kiddell, the mayor of Watton, said she feared police cuts had worsened issues, linking the fire to other petty crime in the town.

“It is really bad,” she said. “This is an area that has been targeted before and I am a bit worried because we have had some incidents with different things happening around town.

Mayor of Watton Tina Kiddell. Picture: Mark Bunning Photography, WattonMayor of Watton Tina Kiddell. Picture: Mark Bunning Photography, Watton

“We are not sure if it is one particular gang or if it is just crime being exacerbated. There are all sorts of little things like Christmas lights being ripped down.

“It could be just vandalism but when you have got fewer police this is what the end result is.”

She said it was “alarming”, and said she feared cutbacks would leave the town “at the mercy of crime”.

“It is not just Watton, everyone is suffering from these problems,” she said. “With the government sat up with Brexit people have taken their eye off the ball at street level.

Fire crews were called to a large straw stack fire at Watton Airfield. Picture: Courtesy of Jade FrostFire crews were called to a large straw stack fire at Watton Airfield. Picture: Courtesy of Jade Frost

“While all the people are sat in their ivory towers they are not seeing what is going on down here. It is starting to become a bit of anarchy.”

The airfield is used by multiple farmers and the fields back on to the Blenheim Grange, a housing estate in the town.

It is believed the hay was owned by Bearts and was meant to be feed for the pigs on the farm.

Ms Kiddell said: “There are a lot of farmers who use those fields. I believe the hay was for the pigs and luckily the pigs weren’t affected but they could have been.

“It is a lot of money and it is catastrophic for the farmers that this is happening. It is just awful.”

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