Farmers braved Ottery inferno

FEARLESS young farmers drove a tractor through the wall of a flaming barn in a desperate bid to stop trapped cattle being burnt alive by a ferocious Ottery blaze on Monday.

FEARLESS young farmers drove a tractor through the wall of a flaming barn in a desperate bid to stop trapped cattle being burnt alive by a ferocious Ottery blaze on Monday.

An injured bullock was put down but 25 escaped from 20ft high flames, fuelled by tonnes of straw and hay, that ripped through an outbuilding at Knightstone Farm and burned well into Tuesday.

The inferno, which started at around 8.10pm, raged through the night under the watch of fire-fighters, who could only ensure the flames didn't spread as the barn also contained around three tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, which reacts violently to water.

"I've never seen anything like it," said David Lawrence, 27, who runs Knightstone Farm with his family, and was taking part in a cattle clipping demonstration with young farmers from Axminster and Coombe Valley when they noticed a noise that sounded like fireworks, was, in fact the roof of the barn "exploding".

David has praised the young farmers and his neighbours for selflessly helping to save the cows.

"Without them around we wouldn't have been able to evacuate all the bullocks," he said. "We had to drive a tractor through the wall of the barn, fire had engulfed the doors"

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"Everyone's first thought was for the safety of the bullocks, we had no regard for ourselves and just wanted to get them out.

"Every single one of them (cows) has been raised on this farm, you don't want to see them die like that."

David said one cow had to be put down following injuries suffered when a burning hay bale toppled on to it in the mayhem.

"Every single other one is fine," added David, who lives on-site with his fianc�e, "a few have singed hair, vets have looked after them."

"We've been taken back by the offers of help we've had, thank-you to everyone."

Fire-fighters used cutting equipment to free another cow which became stuck in a metal food barrier while trying to escape the flames.

Overhead power cables and the barn's asbestos roof were also a concern for crew members as the fire raged and was still smouldering late on Tuesday afternoon.

Police and the fire service were investigating the cause of the fire as the Herald went to press.

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