Fire risk a little close to home

10 August 2022

East Anglia
An aerial view of a field fire

NFU Regional Policy Manager Charles Hesketh urges continued vigilance against fires after a field caught ablaze close to his south Cambridgeshire home

Sunday evenings usually consist of relaxing with family, maybe finishing of a few domestic chores, trying not to dwell on the to do list for the next morning and for me generally retiring to the sofa in some form of food coma.

 Charles Hesketh

Last Sunday, however, all of that went out the window when sitting in the garden at around 6pm I began to hear a crackling noise followed by shouting in the distance and the sight of local farmer Michael, usually a very careful driver, thundering past the house with a cultivator hooked up to the back.

Thinking this was unusual for our quiet sleepy community in South Cambridgeshire I walked to the back of the garden and peeked over the fence to see the sky filled with smoke and the hedge around 200 metres or so away ablaze, with signs it was in the field that backs onto our fence.

Farm fire near Royston

Several expletives were said and our highly flammable fluffy cockapoo was safely stowed away in the house, with the other half given instructions to get the hosepipe out and ready if required. A shovel was grabbed and I ran out to the field to see if I could be of assistance, along with half the able bodied population of the village.

The quick-thinking farmer had already called the fire service and the unique place where we live, bordering three counties. meant that within 20 minutes the first fire truck had arrived, followed by three more.

At this point, and with the farmer going full speed through the headlands backing up onto our house, I walked over to see where else the fire had spread. I was joined by my neighbour's son Patrick, who had finally managed to justify that drone he’d convinced his parents he needed for Christmas and was able to show the fire service where it was spreading.

Within around an hour the fire was under control, with the local residents helping to pat out any last bits in the hedges, but not before 100 acres of stubble, over several fields, and around 50 straw bales had been turned to ash.

It was scary stuff and with fires seemingly rife across East Anglia at the moment, and with the bales left to burn into the night, my fingers are even more firmly crossed than they were, hoping for some rain shortly.

Having seen first-hand how quickly such a small fire can spread, I would urge everyone to follow the fire prevention advice we've published online.

Let’s all play a part and reduce the fire risk to protect ourselves, our crops, countryside and wildlife.  

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