Major field fire near M11 spread to railway station building

A major field fire at Great Chesterford brought trains between London and Cambridgeshire to a halt yesterday (July 17)

A major field fire at Great Chesterford brought trains between London and Cambridgeshire to a halt yesterday (July 17) - Credit: Gerard Clinton

Firefighters from Essex and Cambridgeshire tackled a major field fire which brought trains to a halt between London and Cambridge.

More than 15 firefighting units from across two counties tackled the blaze, which affected 400 acres of field next to the M11 at Great Chesterford, near Saffron Walden, on Sunday, July 17.

Greater Anglia trains through London, Essex and Cambridgeshire were stopped, and the blaze spread to the roof of a disused building at Great Chesterford railway station.

The fire broke out at around 4.04pm and was extinguished by 9.30pm.

Fire crews from as far away as Cottenham, Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea tackled a Great Chesterford fire

Fire crews from as far away as Cottenham, Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea tackled the fire which affected 400 acres of field near Great Chesterford - Credit: Gerard Clinton

Dramatic pictures show the fire spreading up to the railway line at Great Chesterford

Dramatic pictures show the fire spreading up to the railway line at Great Chesterford - Credit: Gerard Clinton

Dave Bond, an Essex County Fire and Rescue station manager, said: "It was a fast-moving fire due to the weather conditions and crews worked really hard to protect the M11 and nearby houses.

"Unfortunately, embers set fire to the roof space of an unused two-storey building at Great Chesterford train station.

"The roof sustained significant damage but crews prevented further damage to the building. 

"I'd like to pay tribute to our control officers who have been extraordinarily busy dealing with calls and managing resources and to our crews, many who have gone from one arduous incident to the next."

Firefighters from Essex and Cambridgeshire arriving at the scene of a fire at Great Chesterford, near the M11 motorway

Firefighters from Essex and Cambridgeshire arriving at the scene of a fire at Great Chesterford, near the railway line and the M11 motorway - Credit: Gerard Clinton

The fire at Great Chesterford, between the railway station and the M11 motorway between London and Cambridge

The fire at Great Chesterford, between the railway station and the M11 motorway between London and Cambridge - Credit: Gerard Clinton

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Crews from Saffron Walden, Stansted, Newport, Thaxted, Harlow and Epping were called to the blaze, along with three crews from Linton, Sawston and Cottenham in Cambridgeshire.

An Aerial Ladder Platform was called in from Southend-on-Sea, some 44 miles away from the scene, along with an off-road vehicle from Chelmsford.

Some trains were cancelled on the adjacent railway line into Sunday evening.

On Monday morning, a Greater Anglia spokesperson said: "Following a fire near Great Chesterford station, the line is open.

"But because the station has wooden beams beneath the platforms supporting the structure, trains were not be able to call at Great Chesterford.

"A structural engineer has attended the site this morning to assess the wooden beams and has ruled it safe for the public."

The aftermath of a field fire which nearly reached the M11 motorway at junction 9 near Saffron Walden

The aftermath of a field fire which nearly reached the M11 motorway at junction 9 near Saffron Walden - Credit: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

Embers from the field fire allowed the blaze to spread onto the disused Great Chesterford railway station building roof

Embers from the field fire allowed the blaze to spread onto the disused Great Chesterford railway station building roof - Credit: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

The station was able to reopen before 9am.

The blaze broke out amid Met Office warnings for severe or "extreme" heat.

On Sunday, the Met Office observations included highs of more than 30C throughout the East of England.

Heathrow Airport near London received 13.2 hours of sunlight, and the highest temperature of the day was recorded at Hawarden in Wales, where the mercury hit 33C.

Several field fires have been recorded near Great Chesterford throughout the heatwave.

On July 10, a car fire on the A11 in Cambridgeshire spread into a field near Linton.

A fire next to the A11 between Great Chesterford and Newmarket on July 10

A fire next to the A11 between Great Chesterford and Newmarket on July 10 - Credit: Les Redhead

A field fire at Ongar in the Epping Forest district of Essex on July 14 

A field fire at Ongar in the Epping Forest district of Essex on July 14 - Credit: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

Between July 13 and July 14, crews in Essex were called to three separate field fires near Ongar in the Epping Forest district.

On the same day as the Great Chesterford blaze, three acres of fields and 80 metres of hedgerow caught fire at 12.33pm near Braintree. Crews from Halstead and Thaxted extinguished the blaze by 1.06pm.

Five acres of field were also alight in Bentfield Bower, Stansted by 2.54pm. Crews from Stansted, Newport and Saffron Walden brought the blaze under control by 5.27pm.