Farmer helps protect huge Amazon warehouse from crop blaze

An arable grower in County Durham has helped firefighters prevent a crop blaze from reaching a huge Amazon distribution centre.

Fire broke out in a 24ha crop of malting barley at Robin Stevenson’s Tursdale House Farm at Bowburn, Durham.

One field is bordered by Amazon’s 550,000 sq ft Bowburn warehouse, which employs 1,000 people and feeds directly on to the A1(M).

As the blaze took hold, it swept across the field to within 100m of the warehouse walls. Mr Stevenson joined firefighters in tackling the blaze, working ahead of the smoke and flames using cultivation equipment to create a fire break.

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While Mr Stevenson worked, County Durham Fire and Rescue Service tackled the blaze using tenders with high-pressure hoses.

Man in a field

Robin Stevenson with the Amazon warehouse in the background © Northern Echo

A fire service spokesman confirmed that Mr Stevenson had assisted firefighters in containing the blaze. He said the blaze would have reached the Amazon warehouse had it not been for the firefighters’ and Mr Stevenson’s combined efforts.


In a statement, Amazon UK expressed its gratitude.

“We would like to recognise Mr Stevenson and County Durham & Darlington Fire and Rescue Service for their quick action in extinguishing the fire in the nearby field,” the statement said.

“Their hard work is greatly appreciated by all of the team at our Durham fulfilment centre.”

Aside from the Amazon centre, the farm’s 100 beef cattle were also put at risk from the fire. Spooked by the blaze, the herd careered towards hedges, and Mr Stevenson feared fencing would be broken down by the stampede.

Fortunately, the fences held while the cultivations helped to stop further movement of the fire.

Combine at work with burnt crop in the foreground

Mr Stevenson reckoned he lost 5ha or 30t of barley © Northern Echo

However, with part of the field reduced to ashes, Mr Stevenson reckoned he lost 5ha or 30t of the crop, which was due to be harvested the same afternoon. But he praised the fire service as “first class” for saving the rest of the crop.

“The whole 60-acre barley crop would have gone up without the fire brigade,” he told The Northern Echo.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but the Stevenson family believe it was started deliberately. Durham Police has confirmed that an investigation has been launched and enquiries into arson allegations are ongoing.

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