Police suspect arsonist started barn blaze

The barn ablaze. Picture: Guy Shepherd
The barn ablaze. Picture: Guy Shepherd

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ARSON is thought to be to blame after a huge fire destroyed a barn.

Police launched an investigation after the barn’s owner Kim O’Brien found evidence of a break-in.

Fire crews went to the farm at Blendworth, near Horndean, at 6.45pm on Tuesday.

They spent most of yesterday making sure the burning embers were out.

The blaze could be seen for miles as a large plume of smoke billowed across Horndean.

Ms O’Brien, a 56-year-old property developer and farmer, is devastated as the barn will probably have to be rebuilt. The clean-up costs are likely to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

The hay was to be used by a local farmer.

She said: ‘I was here at 7pm and came back at 10pm expecting everything to be gone.

‘It was unbelievable. Every time you came up the track, there was another fire engine coming. There were at least 50 people working on it.’

After speaking with the National Farmers’ Union, Ms O’Brien initially believed the fire was spontaneous combustion. But closer inspection revealed trespassing and vandalism.

Nearby farm buildings were broken into and doors and panels smashed.

Boxes storing items such as CDs were ripped open and a rabbit hutch was destroyed.

‘It was a brand new one of about £400 to £500 – it’s just smashed to pieces,’ added Ms O’Brien.

‘Now they are starting to think it’s a crime. It’s a bit more serious that we thought.’

She added: ‘I think I’m going to lose the building. It’s a massive building and half the roof is gone. It’s whether the structure is safe and I suspect it’s not.’

Eleven fire crews from Horndean, Waterlooville, Havant, Fareham, Cosham and Southsea tackled the blaze.

Ms O’Brien and local councillor Guy Shepherd, who went down to the barn, praised the work of firefighters and the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which turned up to give refreshments and food to firefighters.

Cllr Shepherd said: ‘It was really good of them to turn up out of the blue and give their support.’