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Dorset Police are investigating the possibility that a big barn fire in the county recently could be linked to several other fire's that happened nearby.
Officers in Dorchester are appealing for witnesses and anyone with information to come forward after the large fire at Lower Burton near Charminster and three further fires in the rural parts of the Dorchester and Sherborne area.
They go the call at around 7.30pm on Wednesday, 14 September 2011. 20 people had to be evacuated from nearby homes and four businesses were affected by the blaze. It completely destroyed the barn, two vehicles and around 100 tonnes of hay. A road closure was in place until almost 3pm today, Thursday, 15 September 2011, to enable Dorset Fire and Rescue Service to tackle the blaze.
An earlier incident involved a fire on a trailer of straw that occurred some time after 9am on Wednesday, 14 September in Wanchard Lane, Dorchester.
At about 9.20pm, also on Wednesday, police received a report of a third fire – this time involving two bales of hay at the South West Business Park in Sherborne.
In the early hours of today, Thursday, 15 September 2011, at around 3.30am officers received a report of a manure pile on fire at Cokers Farm, Frome.
Nobody was injured in any of the incidents.
Detective Inspector Stewart Dipple, of County CID, said:
"We are working closely with fire investigators from Dorset Fire and Rescue to establish the cause of the fires, whether there is any evidence to suggest they were started deliberately and whether they are linked.
"I would urge anyone who has any information regarding the fires, or witnessed any suspicious activity near to each of the incidents, to contact police urgently."
Inspector Les Fry, Neighbourhood Inspector for Dorchester and Sherborne, said:
"The cost to the famers is significant and the inconvenience at the loss of machinery and winter feedstuffs considerable.
"With our operation Countryside we are coordinating our work to protect the rural community and work with people to make life considerably harder for criminals.
"Anyone who is looking to improve their security should contact their local Safer Neighbourhood Team for advice."
Nobody has been arrested.
Witnesses and anyone with information should call Dorset Police in confidence on 01305 22 22 22 quoting incident number 14:408. Alternatively, call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 where mobile phone tariffs may apply.