Police appeal over massive straw fire

Police are appealing for information as two massive straw stack fires continue to burn in Cambridgeshire.

Arsonists are believed to be behind a blaze that has seen at least 15,000 tonnes of straw destroyed in a field off Chatteris Road, Mepal.

Fire crews were called out at 11.30pm on Tuesday (13 December). A second stack fire was reported off the A142 at Witcham an hour later.

In total, some 66,000t of straw are believed lost.

The incidents are being treated as suspicious and a joint investigation has been launched by the police and fire service.

PC Robin Smith, of the county’s Rural Community Action Team, said: “I would urge anyone with any information about these fires to contact police.

“Stack fires can take up a huge amount of the fire service’s time and cost the victim thousands of pounds, as well as pushing up the cost of straw.

“We are working closely with the fire service to combat this type of offending and extra patrols will be put on in the area.

“We would urge people to call police if they see any suspicious activity.”

Martin Boome, arson liaison officer for the Cambridgeshire Arson Partnership, said the consequences of the fire were huge.

“People don’t realise the resources the fire service have to put in place to tackle fires such as these, which are likely to burn for several days.

“In this situation you have a large amount of straw which is on fire, in very close proximity to other stacks which have been unaffected.”

Fire fighters were working day and night to contain that the fire, which was preventing crews from attending other emergency incidents in the area.

“Fires like this also have a massive effect on the victim and the local community,” said Mr Boome.

Much of the straw was believed destined for nearby Ely Power Station – the largest straw burning power station in the world.

It represents one third of the straw supplied annually to the power station, which burns some 200,000 tonnes a year.

Operated by EPR, the power station can also burn oilseed rape and miscanthus. Cereal straw to the plant is supplied by sister company Anglian Straw.

The Ely power station is highly efficient, generating steam at 540°C.

Noted for its reliability, the power station achieves one of the highest load factors of any renewable energy plant.

Anyone with any information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

You can report a crime or look at crime in your area on our Crime Register

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