10:40am Sunday 5th August 2012
By Emily Roberts
AROUND 200 bales of hay are still on fire at an equestrian centre in Oakley.
Firefighters have been tackling the blaze at Park Farm in Rectory Road since 2.20am this morning after a member of staff at the farm raised the alarm.
Around 20 horses in a building next to the burning barn were moved to protect them from smoke inhalation.
Crews are expected to remain at the scene until midday, to control the flames, but are not entering the open barn because it is too dangerous.
Neil Buckner, watch manager at Basingstoke fire station, said: “It was already well alight when we turned up.”
He said that because the barn has 260 solar panels on the roof, firefighters adopted a “defensive” approach when tackling the blaze, because of the potential danger of the panels.
He added: “They can store electricity and they are quite new technology. We have made sure it’s not spreading and are encouraging it to burn out.”
Julian Small, owner of the farm, said: "I'm pretty gutted really."
The 47-year-old father-of-two added: “We have had to close the riding school because it’s unusable. We had to move horses in the night to get them out of the smoke filled barn. I’m hoping there’s no damage to the shop from the smoke because there are clothes and rugs in there that I’m concerned about.”
The cost of the damage is not yet known, but the solar panels, which were put up in March, cost £120,000.
Police are now investigating the cause of the fire.
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