Crops worth thousands of pounds were destroyed along with a £60,000 tractor after a severe blaze raged through fields on an Alfriston farm on Wednesday afternoon.
More than 50 firefighters spent three hours tackling the fire which broke out on land at Berwick Court Farm, between the Drusillas roundabout on the A27 and the village of Alfriston.
Nearby Drusillas Zoo Park was evacuated and 1,500 visitors were told to leave the attraction at the height of the fire and as flames and black plumes of smoke could be seen across the countryside.
The alarm was raised shortly before 3pm when soaring temperatures are believed to have started the fire.
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. Mr Lewis said the destroyed crops included wheat, barley and oil seed rape.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Mr Lewis. “The fire brigade did a fantastic job and we are also really grateful for all the help from other farms locally.”
A fire service spokesperson said six fire engines were sent to the scene from Eastbourne, Seaford and Lewes as well as four landrovers, one water bowser and a support command unit.
“Firefighters worked hard in difficult circumstances,” said the spokesperson.
By 7pm most crews had been stood down with checks for hot spots taking place during the night.
Traffic on the A27 was badly affected with tailbacks of several miles and locals were asked to keep doors and windows closed to help avoid the smoke.
A spokesperson at Drusillas said, “Thank you all for concern regarding the fire that broke out in the field opposite us. We are happy to say we safely evacuated all visitors and no damage has occurred to the park. All animals are safe and well.“
Photos by Dan Jessup.
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