A major fire which started in the early hours of Saturday morning has been blamed on an arson attack.

The fire brigade was called to AWSM Farms at Lane Head, Hutton Magna at 1:03am. Initially two appliances from Barnard Castle attended, and were quickly joined by another four, two from Darlington and Newton Aycliffe, and two from the North Yorkshire brigade. The aerial platform from Darlington was also called in.

Because there is no fire hydrant on the site, the Water Relay Unit from Durham was needed initially. Firefighters later laid a length of hose from the site of the blaze, down the road to Hutton Magna and through the village so water could be pumped from Hutton Beck.

Owner Adam Metcalfe was in no doubt as to the cause, blaming arson.

Some 700 tonnes of straw and valuable equipment was lost.

Mr Metcalfe said it could have been even worse, adding: "Because we had been having a delayed Christmas party, there were staff on site who were able to get valuable plant and machinery out of harms way."

This is the second attack on the business this year. Sugar was added to the fuel tanks of several machines recently.

Mr Metcalfe described the event as disheartening, but insited he is not giving up.

"We will be back, stronger than ever" he said.