RETAINED fire crews from Verwood were drafted in to fight a blazing barn at a pig farm in Wimborne on Sunday, August 10 as Dorset firefighters continue strike action.

The barn containing 4,000 tons of straw was destroyed in the fire, which took hold at 10am, at Chilbridge Pig Farm near Wimborne.

Crews from Verwood were deployed to the incident because Dorset Fire and Rescue Service is running a reduced response amid strike action until Saturday.

Julian Lockwood, station manager at Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said a large barn and approximately 4,000 tons of straw were destroyed.

He said: “Two crews from Poole and one crew from Wimborne arrived and found the barn well alight.

“A caravan by the side of the barn had been engulfed by the time they got here.”

Farm worker Steve Bellows, who raised the alarm, said he parked a small tractor inside the barn shortly before the fire began.

He said: “I went to check on some of the pigs. Ten minutes later it was completely alight. I couldn’t believe it.”

Mr Lockwood said: “We have had contingency plans in place for this since Christmas. It is hard for us but it has worked really well.”

He added: “We are urging everyone to be aware of the strikes and take extra care.”

Bill Richards, owner of the farm, said: “I think they have done a good job.

“I would have been worried if no one was here, but I don't feel we have been compromised due to the strike.”

A barn caught fire in Marnhull, North Dorset, on Saturday, August 9.

In both instances retained fire crews from further afield were drafted in to cover.

Both fires are believed to have been caused by spontaneous combustion of crops.

Andy Fox, head of fire safety said: “We are issuing a warning to farmers, asking them to check their barns regularly, looking for heating of hay, and a distinctive chocolate/caramel or musty smell, which indicates the stack is heating up.

If you do suspect there may be a deep seated fire, call us immediately on 999 and then move any livestock, then machinery and hazardous items from the area, as any investigative movement of the bales can cause the fire to rapidly spread.

“To try to prevent this occurring, stack the bales further apart or in smaller stacks.”

Spontaneous combustion is the result of a complex chain of biological events and chemical reactions, and can happen if crops are not dry enough when stored in bulk and put away too soon.