A massive fire that engulfed a barn on billionaire owner James Dyson’s farm is being treated as a suspected arson attack.
The blaze broke out at about 10pm on Wednesday at the farm in East Ilsley, in the Lambourn area of west Berkshire.
Seven fire crews from Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service were sent to the scene to tackle the flames.
See also: Dyson splashes another £37m on farmland
Motorists were brought to a standstill along a four-mile stretch of the neighbouring A34 road while emergency services dealt with the incident.
James Thompson, head of farming at Sir James’ estate, Beeswax Dyson Farming, posted a video of the fire on his Twitter account.
— James Thompson (@farmerThomo) December 6, 2018
He said “mindless vandals” were responsible for the fire, which sent 2,500 straw bales up in smoke, following a challenging farming year.
Our firefighters remain at the scene following an overnight fire at a farm in East Ilsley. Thank you to everyone who has reported it to us. If you live or work nearby please close windows and doors as there may be smoke in the area. pic.twitter.com/nsf9kCvg5u
— Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (@RBFRSofficial) December 6, 2018
Thames Valley Police has appealed to anyone with information to get in touch.
A police spokesman said: “Officers are investigating a suspected arson to a barn near East Ilsley that occurred about 10pm on 5 December. If you witnessed any suspicious activity in the area please phone 101 quoting urn1358.”
Sir James’ total farming estate is the biggest in the UK, spanning 13,355ha of farmland in Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire.
Seven tips to foil farm arsonists
- Take note that straw stacks are typically targeted during July and October
- Try to stack hay and straw away from public roads and visible places
- Split large stacks into smaller stacks with a 10m gap down the middle. If a fire breaks out, you may get chance to move unburned straw away
- Avoid stacking bales near buildings with livestock inside so if a fire starts animals are not endangered
- Remove hay and straw from the field as soon as possible. If it has to be left overnight you might consider blocking access routes to it
- Engage with the local community and ask them to report any suspicious activity on land near stacks to the police
- Report suspicious behaviour round farms to 101 and only emergencies to 999, potentially saving not only lives, but livestock and machinery too.
Source: Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service