£20,000 of straw destroyed in Hertfordshire blaze

A fire which destroyed around 250t of straw at a farm in St. Albans is being treated as suspected arson by police.

The fire was started on three separate stacks, two of which were spaced a kilometre apart, shortly after midnight on Wednesday, August 22.

Fire crews remained on scene for 15 hours, taking it in shifts to control the blaze.

At one point, four crews were on-site; however, as the straw was already well alight, it could not be saved.

Around 500 six-string bales were destroyed, the majority of which were stored in a hayshed, with the rest split between an artic trailer and around a dozen stacked on their own.

Firefighters are expected to make a further visit of the site tonight as deep-seated pockets of fire could remain still pose a risk.

Image source: Herts Fire Control

The straw belonged to Jamie Burrows, the National Farmers’ Union county chairman for Hertfordshire.

Speaking to AgriLand, Burrows said the bales had a value of around £20,000.

The straw had been kept to bed around 40 cattle, 60 horses and 200 sheep through the winter and was his entire winter supply.

Luckily, he said he will be able to replace some of the straw using a field left unharvested due to wet weather. The remaining straw had originally been destined for farmers in Northern Ireland who are facing shortages but will now be needed for his own stock.

“I have been really humbled by the reaction from everybody,” he said. “Neighbours and even people on Twitter who I don’t even know, have been in touch to say they have heard what has happened and want to help. I’ve really been touched by the response.”

The scene the day after. Image source: Jamie Burrows

Burrows said it had been difficult explaining what had happened to his two young children, both of whom take an interest in the farm.

“My family have been farming in the area for 90 years and my father can only vaguely recollect even one similar incident over that time,” he said.

“It really is a family farm; I’ve a six-year-old and a three-year-old and the sheep are ‘their sheep’ so we’d have to explain why daddy’s trailer looks the way it does and why there are firefighters everywhere – and that’s been really difficult.”

A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire police said: “Officers are treating the incident as suspected arson and enquiries are on-going.

“Anyone with information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact Hertfordshire Constabulary via the non-emergency number ‘101’, quoting crime reference 41/29797/18, or report information online.”

Alternatively, anyone with information can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on: 0800-555-111; or through their anonymous online form at: www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will never need to go to court.