FARM livestock died in a farm fire which also destroyed a barn and machinery.

The blaze on Northover Farm at Cross In Hand in East Sussex began shortly before 2am Friday morning.

Farmer Chris Jeffries was woken up by what he thought was hailstones but found out it was the sound of cement boards exploding on the barn roof.

The 67-year-old grassland and sheep farmer said: “I looked out and our barn was ablaze.

“There was a flash as 2,500 litres of diesel in a tank in a lean-to next to the barn went up.”

Six sheep who were being housed in the lean-to were killed.

Fire services were called at 1.53am and sent crews from Heathfield, Hailsham and Uckfield to tackle the flames.

Before they arrived Mr Jeffries was able to rescue three tractors, two trailers and a Land Rover from the back of the burning barn.

He said: “The dividing wall between the two barns acted as a fire break – until it collapsed – which gave me time to get some of the equipment out.

“I just decided it was safe and got on with it. That side of the barn wasn’t on fire yet but it was extremely hot.” The fire was completely extinguished at around 9am, having destroyed the 50m by 50m barn.

The blaze also damaged an adjacent barn and destroyed 300 bales of straw and hay, two diesel trucks, a tractor, trailer and a baler - used to make bales of hay.

Mr Jeffries said it was not yet possible to estimate the cost of the damage but confirmed it will amount to “a substantial sum”.

Insurers National Farmers Union has appointed a forensic science company to investigate the cause of the fire.

Mr Jeffries said: “My wife Julie and I are both fine but a bit shaken up.

“We won’t let this affect our business but it’s going to make life extremely difficult. We have lost our ability to drive around and attend to our animals. We have lost our straw, hay and diesel for the tractors.

“Our neighbours have already offered replacements. We’ve got some good people around us.”