Kent farmer devastated after explosion kills 6,000 pheasants

A Kent farmer has said he is devastated after 6,000 pheasants perished in a fire caused by a gas heater explosion.

The fire began on the farm in Knowle Hill, Ulcombe near Maidstone, on Tuesday morning (21 April).

Steve King told Farmers Weekly that the blaze was so ferocious it incinerated the two mobile sheds the pheasants were housed in, leaving nothing but steel frames.

See also: Why on-farm water supply is critical to contain fires

He said: “It is devastating, we have lost all our over-winter breeding stock for 2021. It must have been a gas heater malfunction.

“We had to stay away and let the fire brigade do their job because it was so dangerous with the five gas cylinders on the sheds.

“The fire was so quick we couldn’t even get to the gas cylinders to remove the risk. We just had to stay away from it, it was so ferocious.”

Residents heard explosions

Mr King said the high-spec sheds were worth between £15,000 and £20,000 each and the breeding value of each pheasant was about £10.

The farmer also finishes store lambs and has lived in Ulcombe for 20 years.

Nearby residents reported hearing the explosions.

Nick Smith, who was out walking nearby, said on Twitter he heard three “huge explosions” and saw a fireball hundreds of feet high.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service confirmed gas cylinders had exploded early in the fire, which was extinguished after two engines and a bulk water carrier attended.

A spokesperson said: “There are no reported casualties and the cause of the fire is not yet known.”

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