A STRAY firework has been blamed for a starting a fire involving 40 tons of hay on a farm.

Fire crews were called to New Manor Farm at Woolley at 8.40pm on Saturday night (November 3) after a fire was spotted in the corner of a barn. It took 30 firefighters three hours to bring the blaze under control, but the farm's entire winter food stock and several items of heavy machinery were destroyed.

Owner Maggie Harris and several firefighters managed to rescue three horses from the adjoining stable, which was also partially burned.

Crews finally extinguished the flames by 11.30pm but stayed until 10am on Sunday morning to monitor the situation.

"There's nothing left but a smouldering pile of poles, broken bits of asbestos and a rusting tractor," mother-of-two Mrs Harris told The Hunts Post. "On Sunday we just stood there in the pouring rain looking at the damage - it was an absolute shambles."

Mrs Harris, 68, said she was having a well-earned night off from the bed and breakfast business she operates on the farm.

"I was upstairs watching telly with a cup of Horlicks and had no idea the neighbours were throwing things at the window to try to rouse me," she said. "I'd taken my hearing aid out so I was oblivious to what was going on outside.

"All of a sudden I saw the phone flashing so I put my hearing aid back in and it was Rosie from next door telling me to come quickly because the barn was on fire."

Mrs Harris said when she got the barn she found neighbours throwing buckets of water over the flames but "the fire turned into a raging inferno".

Neighbour Michael French had alerted the emergency services. He discovered the fire when getting his cat in to avoid the noise from fireworks in the area.

"The fire crews literally arrived minutes after being called and they were amazing," Mrs Harris explained. "It was like Piccadilly Circus around here - there were fire crews, local farmers and lots of other people helping - I made 40-odd bacon and egg sarnies to keep them going!

"Somehow someone managed to get a tractor and a muck-spreader out of the barn - but another tractor and a post-rammer couldn't be saved."

Incident commander Andy Tucker said: "This was a very serious fire which has completely damaged the barn and put the lives of the horses in the adjoining stable at serious risk. We would urge anyone using fireworks to ensure that they follow the instructions very carefully and also to make sure that the fireworks are aimed well away from buildings and structures."

Mrs Harris, who has built the farm up over 35 years, said the reaction of the community had restored her faith in human nature.

"Over the years I've had a lot of things thrown at me but I've always tried to see the good in people. This was rewarded on Sunday. Everyone who came over was so kind and we had an amazing gang of people, including the firefighters who I can't thank enough."