Co Antrim farmer left counting the cost of shed blaze

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A fire at premises owned by Randalstown farmer James Alexander has destroyed an entire winter’s stock of straw and hay, along with items of farm machinery and lambing equipment.

The incident occurred on Sunday evening at around 8.30pm with the fire rapidly taking hold throughout the building.

Mr Alexander is the owner of the renowned Jalex suckler beef herd, which has regularly featured on UTV’s ‘Rare Breeds’ programme.

“We have all the farm buildings monitored by closed circuit television,” he explained.

“At 8.22pm everything was fine: two minutes later the entire shed was alight.

“The fire service was on site for 22 hours. However, the straw was still burning on Tuesday morning. As soon as we tried to move what remained in the shed, it would catch alight again..

“Thankfully, the fire did not spread to the livestock unit, which is adjacent to the building that was affected.”

Mr Alexander said it was far too early to indicate what was behind the fire.

“However, a shed on a neighbouring farm was destroyed in similar circumstances, again on a Sunday evening, four weeks ago,” he said.

He confirmed that the bill for damages could well run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“The roof is totally destroyed. And we will have to wait until the fire has burnt itself out completely before assessing the state of the walls,” he said.

“Obviously, there is the issue of the machinery that was lost. But the real problem will be that of replacing the hay and straw that we had in store. Straw is a pretty precious commodity at the present time.”

Meanwhile, the PSNI has confirmed that it received a report of a fire at premises on Gloverstown Road, Randalstown, at around 10pm on Sunday 5th November.

“The cause of the blaze remains under investigation,” a PSNI spokesperson said.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service confirmed that two appliances from Magherafelt Fire Station, one from Antrim Fire Station and a water tanker from Dungiven Fire Station attended the scene.

A spokesperson said: “Firefighters dealt with a fire involving straw in a shed approximately 70 metres in length and 60 metres in breadth. It was well alight on arrival.

“Firefighters assisted a farmer in removing livestock from the shed. The cause of the fire is under investigation and the incident was dealt with at 6.51pm on the Monday (6th November).”