Farmer steers blazing combine to safety

Reader Hannah Greetham sent us these photo of the fire.
Reader Hannah Greetham sent us these photo of the fire.

A farmer drove away his blazing combine harvester in a bid to save his crops, leaping clear as the flames licked around his cab.

Giles Halfhead, 68, runs Sapperton Farming Company between Ropsley and Folkingham and lost 15 acres of standing crops as well as his valuable three-year-old machine in the inferno on Thursday night.

Reader Hannah Greetham sent us these photo of the fire

Reader Hannah Greetham sent us these photo of the fire

These dramatic images were captured by gamekeeper David Greetham of Haceby, who lived nearby and came to assist when he and his son Harry heard explosions.

Mr Halfhead was driving the harvester in a field alongside the A52 between Haceby and Newton when his tractor drivers radioed him having spotted flames at the rear of the machine, believed by fire investigators to have been caused by a mechanical problem.

On their second attempt the tractor drivers managed to get his attention and he told The Standard: “You get some small fires smouldering slowly and you can usually smell it. This was quick and possibly some fuel caught alight.

“I stopped and leapt out and we used our extinguishers but it had taken hold by then.”

Reader Hannah Greetham sent us these photo of the fire

Reader Hannah Greetham sent us these photo of the fire

The fire had not yet spread to the crop and so Mr Halfhead jumped back behind the controls and hurtled down the field, across a bridge spanning a ditch and into a grass field. Unfortunately burning debris dropped onto the cut straw as he passed and it ignited anyway. He said: “I just grabbed a few personal belongings and jumped out.” By this point the flames had reached the cab but the shocked farmer escaped unscathed.

Four fire crews attended assisted by a bowser from a neighbouring farm, and tractor drivers carved fire breaks, halting it within two and a half hours. Mr Halfhead said fortunately no-one was hurt and a temporary replacement combine arrived on Monday.