Church Stretton barn fire not suspicious
A barn that went up in flames in the Shropshire countryside was not believed to have been the result of arson.
But as firefighters continued to rake out hay yesterday, in the aftermath of a blaze on farmland off Shrewsbury Road at All Stretton, near Church Stretton, they warned farmers to be careful how they store bales after harvesting.
The 200 bales of hay that went up in flames on Sunday afternoon are believed to have spontaneously combusted as temperatures rose following being packed into a 20 metre by 10 metre barn.
Crews from Church Stretton and Craven Arms used two hosereel jets to tackle the blaze, which broke out about 4.20pm on Sunday, after which crews raked out the hay to damp it down for another 24 hours.
Steve Paige, watch manager at Church Stretton Fire Station, said spontaneous combustion during hot weather was a known problem for farmers.
He said: "There was no electricity supply to the barn, there is no public walk through and its unlikely someone would start a barn fire deliberately at 4.30pm in the afternoon.
"What we think happened here is that the farmer had the barn half full and put some more hay on top.
"Once you put it in, if it's still damp it can ignite. Straw is not so bad but with hay you need to be very careful – you've only got to put you hand in it to feel how hot it can get."
Shropshire Fire and Rescue's Farm Fire Safety advice leaflet says: "Hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting and stored, taking care to ensure that it is dry to prevent spontaneous combustion, separate
from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery, in stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least 10 metres apart, separate from livestock housing, and not too close to roof lighting."
West Mercia Police's operational patrol unit were also in attendance, but a spokesman confirmed they were only there to lend assistance to fire crews.
"Police did attend but he fire is not believed to be suspicious," he said.