Fire crews praised for saving pig farm

By Juliette MaxamA FARMER has praised firefighters and neighbours for preventing disaster after fire threatened to destroy a barn full of pigs at his farm.

By Juliette Maxam

A FARMER has praised firefighters and neighbours for preventing disaster after fire threatened to destroy a barn full of pigs at his farm.

More than 20 pigs were under threat when a blaze broke out in a barn at Cooks Green Farm, Little Clacton - but thanks to the actions of fire crews and neighbours, only two sows perished.

David Wilkin, who runs the farm with his father, Roger, thanked firefighters and neighbours for saving his pigs and barn and preventing a far bigger disaster.

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The fire was in a large brick barn with a slate roof and timber roof trusses, which is connected to another barn in the farm courtyard.

Mr Wilkin discovered the blaze at about 10.15am on Friday and he and farm worker Peter Gafney tried to put it out with buckets of water before being forced to call for the fire service.

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Four fire crews from Clacton, Weeley and Frinton arrived at the farm within about 10 minutes to tackle the blaze.

In the meantime Roger Wilkin had managed to fight his way through the smoke-filled barn to open two doors, which meant fire crews were able to tackle the flames from two directions.

Most of the pigs found their own way out onto the road, but firefighters wearing breathing apparatus pushed out the last few.

"I imagined they'd choke to death. When I saw them come out, I couldn't believe it," said David Wilkin. "We have checked them and they're fine, they're not even coughing. We were very, very lucky."

Neighbours Colin and James Byford, who run a slaughterhouse nearby, helped the Wilkins move the pigs off the road to a safe area.

Another neighbour also helped by directing the fire brigade to the farm and then assisting with the pigs. "Friends and neighbours rallied round. We can't thank them enough," said David Wilkin.

He also praised the fire service, which stayed at the farm until 4pm and then returned at 7pm to check there were no smouldering hotspots.

"They were absolutely brilliant. We could imagine the fire taking hold of the other barn. It could have been a lot, lot worse. I'm going to write to the chief fire officer and tell him what a good job they did," he added.

David Wilkin, who was still feeling "shaky" at the weekend after the fire, said he believed the blaze had been started by a spark from a farm wood burner.

Station Officer Richard Nunn, of Dovercourt Fire Station, who led the firefighting operation, said crews wearing breathing apparatus had formed breaks in the roof to prevent the blaze spreading and creating more damage.

About a quarter of the barn roof was destroyed, but Mr Nunn said: "Firefighters worked hard to save the barn and rescue the pigs."

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