Aerial photos reveal the full scale of the damage from a blaze which saw 50 hectares of crops burned to a crisp.
More than 1,500 people had to be evacuated from Drusillas Zoo and smoke was seen pouring into the sky for miles after the blaze broke out in fields off the A27 at around 3pm on Wednesday (July 25).
It raged through crops on land at Berwick Court Farm on Alfriston Road and destroyed a £60,000 tractor – but luckily no one was hurt.
More than 50 firefighters from across the county tackled the flames and it was eventually put out just before 6pm that evening, with crews checking for hotspots into the night.
Paul Lewis, who runs the 800 acre farm and whose family has worked the land since 1947, said 28 acres of standing crops had been destroyed along with 28 acres of straw left behind after harvesting.
He said, ““It was heartbreaking. The fire brigade did a fantastic job and we are also really grateful for all the help from other farms locally.”
Mr Lewis said the destroyed crops included wheat, barley and oil seed rape.
Staff at nearby Drusillas zoo pitched in to assist the fire service by forming a chain to pass water buckets, fire extinguishers and hoses back and forth to fight the flames.
Cassie Poland of the park said, “We are all still in shock that this happened; you never think a wild fire is going to be an issue in England. I just want to take a moment to thank the fire fighters for doing such an amazing job – without them I dread to think what might have happened.
“I would also like to really recognise how amazing the staff at Drusillas were. Within seconds of being notified of the evacuation, everyone sprang into action and made sure all of our visitors were escorted to safety.
“The actions of our staff were completely selfless, heroic and very, very brave. We are proud of every single person who helped us to control what was a potentially hazardous situation.
“It was frightening, especially with the roar of flames and the ash falling from the sky, but they all remained calm and truly went above and beyond the call of duty.”
All of the animals remained safe and were kept calm by their keepers. The zoo was back open the following day (Thursday).
All photos by Dann Briscoe.