1. ITV Report

Could a serial arsonist be to blame for Devon barn fires?

Could this barn fire at Stokeinteignhead be the work of an arsonist? Credit: Newton Abbot Fire Station

The fire service has put out a warning after a spate of barn fires around south Devon. There have been six in just six weeks and investigators think an arsonist might be to blame.

There have been six barn fires in South Devon in just six weeks. Credit: ITV West Country

There have been six arson attacks on farm buildings around Newton Abbot and South Devon in the past six weeks.

All the fires were clustered around the same area, within ten miles of Newton Abbot, at Compton, Kingskerswell, Stokeinteignhead, Denbury and Dawlish.

Fires like these can have a devastating impact on farmers and their families.

Arthur Wrayford's farm in Denbury went up in smoke on New Year's Day. Credit: ITV West Country

Arthur Wrayford's barn went up in flames as he and his family were enjoying a meal together at their farm in Denbury near Newton Abbot on New Year's Day. The alarm was raised just after 9pm as the fire was really taking hold. They believe it was started deliberately.

There's no electricity, nothing here to start a fire, and when we came over the gate was open and we always shut it when we finish so we knew somebody had been in here.

– Arthur Wrayford, Farmer
Arthur Wrayford is worried for the welfare of his sheep who are due to lamb soon. Credit: ITV West Country

Aside from the tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage done to the barn and farm machinery, Arthur Wrayford is also concerned for the welfare of his sheep.

The flock of pregnant ewes were in the field beside the barn and visibly shaken by the fire.

They were definitely very frightened by the explosions of the asbestos, which was louder than most fireworks would be.

They were huddled in the furthest corner and they were very stressed and we are concerned over whether that has affected the lambing because they're pretty close up to lambing.

– Arthur Wrayford
Fire crews tackling one of the barn fires. Credit: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue

Some local farmers are said to be investing in intruder sensors and the fire service has issued a warning to all farm owners in the area to be vigilant.

Our investigations show that they are probably deliberate. It's very unusual to get a cluster so close together over such a short period of time. It looks like we've got an arsonist at work in that area.

– GERALD TAYLOR Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue

The Wrayfords have had offers of straw from neighbours to keep them going through the winter but they're reluctant to buy in a lorryload to fill the other barn in case the arsonists return.