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'Suspicious' fire ruins 1,500 tonnes of straw at Old Rides Farm, Leysdown Road, East Church on the Isle of Sheppey

By Andy Gray

One crew remains at the scene of what is being treated as a suspicious blaze in a Sheppey field where 1,500 tonnes of straw was destroyed.

A fire spokesman said they are likely to stay monitoring the incident until 6pm tonight.

A total of 20 firefighters were called to the blaze at Old Rides Farm in Leysdown Road, Eastchurch in the early hours of this morning.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service. Stock image
Kent Fire and Rescue Service. Stock image

Flames covered a 60sq metre section of the field and smoke can still be seen billowing from the site.

It is believed four crews, plus a water unit, were initially called at about 1am.

The effort was scaled down to two pumps by 7.30am .

John Burden, who co-owns the farm, said he was attending a family party in Sittingbourne when he was told of the fire.

"We don't know what we've done to upset anyone to cause problems like this" - John Burden, farm owner

He said: "A taxi driver was driving past the farm and saw the flames. He woke my 15-year-old son, who was asleep, and he called me.

"It was one of those very, very rare occasions when most of my staff had time off, so there were only about two or three members on site."

The fire broke out in an outside stack of bedding straw next to some cattle pens.

Mr Burden added: "My son and staff moved animals away from the fire, so the damage is to things like railings and the like which will cost about £50,000 to repair."

The farmer said a spate of fires in Eastchurch last year were suspected as arson.

He said: "We're very gutted."

"We don't know what we've done to upset anyone to cause problems like this."

Appliances from Sheppey, Teynham, Sittingbourne and Medway initially attended the blaze.

Watch manager for Sheppey, Andy Bridger-Smart, said: "The fire was 3,000 bales of oil rape straw.

"It was stacked in the open air and crews instigated a controlled burn strategy to prevent it spreading further."

With all livestock safely removed, he said firefighters' main concern was to stop the blaze reaching a neighbouring solar farm containing 3,000 panels.

Police confirmed they are investigating the cause of the fire.

All roads to Leysdown continue to remain open.

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