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Farm workers and firefighters battled to stop field fire burning cottages in Gillingham.

A farmer and his workers battled desperately to stop a field fire spreading to cottages before firefighters arrived.

Onlookers watched yesterday afternoon as farm vehicles raced to intercept the blaze, which eventually spread to cover an area of 900 square metres in a field near Gibraltar Farm in Ham Lane, Gillingham.

Fire crews battle to stop a fire spreading near Ham Lane in Gillingham
Fire crews battle to stop a fire spreading near Ham Lane in Gillingham

Farmer Kevin Attwood said he and his staff were cutting corn when they realised a field they had cut to the north was on fire.

"We had already cut the field but some straw was lying in rows," he said. "It was the field behind Gibraltar Farm. We'd moved on and were cutting the field further to the south, but one of our lads saw a plume of smoke. I walked up the bank and saw there was a couple of rows of straw alight.

"The corn had been collected, but the worst damage was to the adjoining properties at 1 and 2 Gibraltar Cottages."

Mr Attwood, a former chairman of the Kent County Agricultural Society, said his workers used a JCB, tractors and a cultivator to try and stop the blaze.

"We separated the rows and pushed the straw along and put a fire break in," he said. "Unfortunately the wind took it straight to the cottages.

"The fire brigade were here pretty quickly and got it under control but there's a garage at the back of number 1 which is burnt and some damage to the garden next door.

"Fortunately everyone got out of the way and the main structure of the buildings wasn't damaged. There could have been a worse scenario.

Kevin Attwood is a former chairman of the Kent County Agricultural Society
Kevin Attwood is a former chairman of the Kent County Agricultural Society

"On the farm side of things it was just straw, so that's trifling and insignificant. For the cottages it's a bit more damage, and I feel for them, but when you see these fires go along rows and spread - it could have been worse.

"If people get out of the way, you start there, and if there's no dwellings burnt, that's the second thing."

And he added: "When you get the fire break around it you can stop it to an extent but you don't want a tractor catching alight as well.

"You can do so much with tractors and cultivators but the thing is not to have one catching fire - then you're into another downward spiral."

Mr Attwood said the burnt straw had been of comparatively little value but had been destined for cattle farms in the south west.

Kent Fire and Rescue confirmed wind had caused the fire to spread to pine trees and outbuildings and that firefighters used compressed air foam to prevent it spreading to two nearby houses and a barn.

The cause is not known but the fire is not being treated as suspicious.

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