‘Blaze could be seen 20 miles away’ – Gosmore farmer speaks to Comet after dramatic late-night inferno sparks harvest heartbreak

The hay fire in Gosmore near Hitchin.

The hay fire in Gosmore near Hitchin. - Credit: Archant

A farmer whose land just outside Hitchin suffered a massive fire in the early hours of yesterday and who bravely rushed to the scene to assist firefighters with vital technical knowledge of the area has spoken to the Comet about what happened.

The hay fire in Gosmore was under power lines which had to be turned off, affecting a number of hous

The hay fire in Gosmore was under power lines which had to be turned off, affecting a number of houses in the area. - Credit: Archant

Firefighters were called to Tatmore Place Farm in Gosmore just after midnight today to a report of hundreds of tonnes of straw on fire, and immediately started hosing down the surrounding area using reels and jets.

Landowner and farmer Richard Taylor, 41, said: “A neighbouring farmer was harvesting in St Paul’s Walden when he saw the smoke while he was combining.

“He tracked to where the fire was, called the emergency services to report it then came to St Ibbs Farm to tell me.”

Brave Mr Taylor, his two sons Daniel and Ben and daughters Jade and Rachel Taylor – who all work for the Richard Taylor Travel Company in London Road, St Ippolyts – then rushed to the scene of the fire.

The scene at Gosmore this morning, where 400 tonnes of straw caught fire. Photo: @HertsFRSControl

The scene at Gosmore this morning, where 400 tonnes of straw caught fire. Photo: @HertsFRSControl - Credit: Archant


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When they got there they were met by three fire engines, and held emergency discussions with the firefighters to establish the best way to fight the extensive flames.

Mr Taylor said: “The stack was roughly 1,200 bales of straw which is around 400 tonnes.

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“The height of the fire was between 80ft to 100ft and could be seen from a 20-mile radius which turned the sky light orange.

“Farmers work all hours of the day during harvest months and with the unsettled weather and changing seasons it is very disheartening and demoralising to say the least.

The relief crew from Stevenage fire station pack away their gear.

The relief crew from Stevenage fire station pack away their gear. - Credit: Archant

“The harvest is drawing to a close for many farmers and the straw cannot be replaced.”

The straw had been sold to straw merchants from around the country mainly for cattle farms in the West Country, and will have a knock on effect for other farmers and loss of earning for Mr Taylor – as well as rising insurance premiums which will cause more headaches in an already financially challenging industry.

Mr Taylor added: “So much time and effort has been put into producing the crops. Farmers spend 12 months of the year growing and looking after the crops, and for something like this to happen is detrimental to the whole industry.

“All we can do is wait for the fire to completely burn out and before starting all over again for next year.

“The cause is still unknown as with many farm fires these days.”

In a further twist electrical engineers from UK Power Networks were alerted by the fire service that, due to overhead lines nearby, their electrical network could be affected so 453 homes initially had their electricity isolated for safety reasons.

Power was restored in 436 homes in Langley and Preston shortly afterwards – but 17 homes in Little Wymondley, Kings Walden and St Ippolyts were left without power until about 1pm.

A fire service spokesman confirmed this afternoon the blaze was out shortly after midday and the cause of the fire is believed to be accidental. No further investigations are due to take place, barring standard inspections.

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