HUNDREDS of bales of hay burned as firefighters battled a blaze in a barn at an agricultural college.

Crews have said it could take up to 48 hours to fully extinguish the fire which took hold this morning at Plumpton College in one of their new barns.

Five fire engines and more than 25 firefighters attended the scene at 7.30am when the blaze took hold at the scene on Ditching Road near Lewes.

A plume of smoke could be seen for miles around as the barn, which firefighters said was full of approximately 500 hay bales, burned.

Des Lambert, principal of Plumpton College, said: “It is all under control and the fire service tend to let it burn – there are a few hundred bales of hay and straw and the roof will be a bit damaged.

“Straw fires tend not to be that dramatic but there was lots of intense smoke.

“Fortunately the students are not here are it is just a pain in the neck. The fire brigade have been very good – they are very quick and they do not mess about."

The Environment Agency has been called in to check that the water running off from the scene is not going to pollute local water courses.

The Argus: Plumpton College barn fire from top of Ditchling Beacon. Picture: Ben SedgwickPlumpton College barn fire from top of Ditchling Beacon. Picture: Ben SedgwickPlumpton College barn fire from top of Ditchling Beacon.  Picture: Ben Sedgwick

Ben Sedgwick, from Brighton, was out cycling when he spotted the large plume of smoke rising over the downs.

The 37-year-old said: “I was cycling from Lewes towards Ditchling when I saw it.

“The fire was being blown was with the wind and spreading in the barn.

“It was just smoking and from Lewes it looked like a very large bonfire, but getting close you saw it was a bit more serious.

“As I was leaving two large water tankers turned up.”

A spokesman for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: “Due to the large amount of hay alight, it is possible it will take between 24 and 48 hours to fully extinguish the fire. 

“There are no reports of injuries and it is not believed any animals are involved.”

An investigation into the cause of the fire will begin once the blaze is extinguished.

The Argus: Plumpton College barn fire from top of Ditchling Beacon.  Picture: Ben Sedgwick