When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Power cable blamed for major blaze at farm
A FARMER’S £2,000 grain crop was destroyed after a large fire swept across five acres of barley.
The blaze was at a barley field on land next to Tilbury Farm in Botley and started after an electrical power cable fell to the ground and ignited the barley on Monday night.
Farmer William Barnett, 51, who has lived at the farm for more than 40 years, leases the land from Oxford University.
He said: “We sell the crop to various grain merchants and the cost of the damaged barley is about £2,000.”
Mr Barnett said: “My wife Helen and I were sitting in the lounge when we got a call from my sister Jill (who lives further down the lane) at about 8.30pm. The power had just gone out before Jill called.
“She said there was a fire in the field and the sirens came down the road when she was on the phone.
“We went out and could see smoke and flames so I got in my Land Rover and drove to the tractors. Me and my assistant Dan Haskins then created a fire trap by turning the crop over so it couldn’t catch fire to stop the burning.
“Creating a fire trap was the only way to deal with it as it is such a huge expanse of land.”
Firefighters and four engines attended the incident and stayed at the scene for two and a half hours.
A spokesman for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue described the fire as “a large blaze which could be seen from miles away”.
Neighbour Bill Gallafent said: “I was just having a normal evening and then the power went off and so I went out to the garden to phone the electricity board and that’s when I spotted it.”
Mr Gallafent, 37, a computer programmer who lives with his partner Dr Bin Zhao, 34, said: “The fire was spreading towards the cottages which was slightly concerning.
“It was on the ridge and the flames were quite high.
“I thought it would only take another 10 minutes for the flames to get to the lane.”
James Coleman spotted the fire from his house to the left of Tilbury Farm.
Mr Coleman, 36, of Deanfield Road, said: “I was in the living room and I looked out and saw the sky line had gone an orange and brown colour.
“I went up to the bedroom window and I saw smoke coming up and fire engines going down Tilbury Lane.
“It was only burning for about 20 to 30 minutes – by 8.53pm the flame had died down and it was just smoke.”
Station manager Graham Turner from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said “Without a doubt, the swift action by the crews in conjunction with the efforts of the farmer prevented the blaze from wiping out a whole field of crops, which would have been a catastrophe for the farm.”
It’s not the first time Tilbury Farm has been struck by fire. In September and November 2007 firefighters tackled two barn fires, with arson suspected in both cases.