A FARMER has spoken of his shock and disbelief after a massive blaze destroyed his lifetime’s collection of vintage buses along with machinery, hay and tractors.
Adrian Leighfield described how an explosion in a tractor parked in the entrance to a barn led to the inferno which reduced his prized Bedford coaches to charred wrecks.
Villagers raced to help him save animals and vehicles from the burning building at Grove Farm in Grittenham, near Royal Wootton Bassett, as sparks flew overhead.
Mr Leighfield, who had been indoors when the blaze broke out at 10pm on Monday, said: “There was a massive explosion. I looked out of the window and there was a tractor half in and half out of the building where I keep my machinery and coaches. It looked like an orange fireball.
“It was such a shock. Unfortunately the wind was fanned the flames. It was devastating, it looked like a bomb had exploded.”
Four of the coaches were destroyed, along with four tractors and 100 tonnes of hay.
Mr Leighfield managed to let the cattle out of the barn and into a field and was able to rescue some vehicles in the opposite end of the barn.
But his collection of buses was destroyed and one of the tractors was also a collector’s item.
Mr Leighfield, 53, said: “Collecting the coaches has been my lifetime’s hobby and everything I had was in the barn.
“There were three inside and one outside which were all destroyed. One was only delivered last week and they were all unique.
“They were not necessarily worth a great deal, they were between 30 and 40 years old and had sentimental value. I used them for shows. They are smashed and twisted metal now.”
The barn was insured but Mr Leighfield is waiting to see if two of the coaches, which were off-road, are covered.
He does not know how the fire started but suspects the wind may have caused flames to erupt in a part of the tractor which was still hot after he parked it at 7pm.
Mr Leighfield, whose grandfather bought the farm in 1924, praised villagers and the fire service.
He said: “The villagers all came down and though the barn was in flames we managed to drag three tractors out before the roof collapsed.
“The flames were billowing and the sparks were flying over our heads. It was very dramatic.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the villagers. I also want to thank the fire service.
“They used water from a pond at the back of the barn and stayed until the next day to make sure it was under control.
“You see these things on the TV and read about it in the papers but I never thought it would happen here because we are so careful. I’m just thankful none of the animals were hurt.”
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said the cause of the blaze was being investigated.