Arson probe after spate of haystack fires

Firebugs are being hunted after a 600-tonne haystack was torched on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

Fire crews battled through the day to bring the massive hay fire under control at a farm in Copperage Road, Farnborough.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said they were called to the fire at about 3.30am on Tuesday (26 August) at the farm, which is located between East Illsley and Farnborough.

Police closed the B4494 road in both directions to allow firefighters to bring the fire under control.

They managed to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby farms, but approximately 200 bales went up in flames.

The fire is the latest in a spate of suspected arson attacks targeting farmers in the area.

Between 18 and 26 August, there were four cases of suspected arson to haystacks on farmland – two in Winterbourne, Newbury, Berkshire, one in Templeton Road, Kintbury and the latest one in Copperage Road, Farnborough.

Thames Valley Police has issued an appeal to farmers in the region urging them to be vigilant.

A spokesman said: “Farmers and landowners are asked to call the 24-hour non-emergency Police Enquiry Centre on 101 if they have any large haystacks in west Berkshire that could potentially be targeted.

“Any suspicious activity should also be reported to the 101 number or in an emergency dial 999.”

A special report published by Farmers Weekly last week discovered that the cost of farm fires has surged to more than £50m a year in the UK, eclipsing the cost of rural crime.

(Pic: Library picture from Rex Features)