A peaceful Sunday stroll took a dramatic twist when a Leighton resident stumbled across what he believed was a traveller’s caravan on fire in the middle of the road.
David Heslop, 51, of Johnson Drive, was taking an afternoon walk at 1pm when he came across the smoking caravan in the middle of Mill Road, Slapton – near Greenacres Travellers Site.
The caravan was soon engulfed in flames, and David called the fire brigade, while also trying to reassure a horse owner who feared for her animals in a neighbouring field.
David claims: “I was walking over the fields and came to the point where the path stops and you have to take the road.
“I could smell something burning and there was this big caravan sitting in the middle of Mill Road smoking – as if it been dragged there for execution!
“It wasn’t long before the flames started and I could hear sounds of breaking glass and some shouts over the other side, presumably from the traveller community, as it was near the Greenacres site.
“The caravan just lit up in flames and rolled back into the trees!”
The horse owner’s field was on the side of the flaming trees, and David said the lady had gathered her horses in a corner away from the blaze to try and keep them safe.
Talking to David through the trees, the lady said she had first known something was wrong when her horses mysteriously stopped eating.
David also called the fire brigade but luckily they had been alerted and the whole incident “was over in about fifteen minutes!”
David added: “The fire service put the flames out quite quickly and one guy attacked the caravan with a hose.
“They also tackled the tops of the trees.
“Once the fire was under control, a second fire engine arrived and started pumping the caravan full of water.
“Nothing exploded apart from a few popping things. I think it was set alight on purpose and whoever did it had taken out anything they didn’t want to burn.
“There were cars waiting on both sides of the road, because it was blocked.
“The caravan? It was wrecked!”
A Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman, said: “We received a call about a caravan on fire outside the Greenacres travellers site by Toddbury Farm, on Slapton Road, Little Billington, at 12.50pm on Sunday, July 9.
“When the first of two fire appliances arrived from Leighton Buzzard Community Fire Station on the scene 12 minutes later it found a caravan on the roadway well on fire.
“The fire involved one hundred per cent of the caravan, 10m of conifer trees, 20sqm of stubble and overhead power lines.
“The road was closed by the police while firefighters fought the fire using two fire hoses and a jet while wearing breathing apparatus to protect themselves from the smoke and fumes.
“One fire engine was used to ferry water to the scene whilst the other was used to put out the fire which was extinguished by 1.48pm.
“The cause of the fire is unknown. There were no casualties. The incident was closed at 2.06pm.”
A Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman said: “We were called at approximately 12.55pm to reports of a caravan on fire in Mill Road, Slapton.
“Police attended and put a road closure in place while the incident was dealt with.”
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "We had a report at 12.51pm yesterday that a caravan was on fire near Toddbury Farm Caravan Park, Slapton Road, Little Billington. Fire was extinguished at 1.11pm and caravan was recovered at 3pm although the road was closed until then.
"As this happened in the Bedfordshire Police area, any subsequent investigation into the cause of the fire if deemed suspicious will be down to Bedfordshire Police and fire service."