RESIDENTS who claim their houses were ‘minutes’ from going up in flames following a huge grassland fire have blamed Barnsley Council for failing to act on their warnings.

The blaze, started deliberately in a field off Water Royd Drive, Dodworth, saw more than 30 firefighters tackle the flames which spread 500 square metres and damaged properties’ windows, sheds and conservatories.

This week residents told the Chronicle the field which is bordered on three sides by housing and has Keresforth Primary School at the bottom has been an ‘accident waiting to happen’ because of access issues, which meant fire crews had to stand in residents’ gardens to tackle the flames, and the council’s policy of leaving behind off-cuttings which acted as tinder for the fire to spread.

One resident, who did not wish to be named, whose conservatory was damaged in the fire and claimed the council was aware of the danger posed to homes which surround the field.

“I know I’ve been in touch with them before and others have. Unfortunately, something has now happened despite multiple warnings.”

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“I’ve heard about grassland fires all across Barnsley this summer but this was so close to destroying houses.

“Sheds and fencing were ruined and the conservatory was melted so several people have had to go through their insurance.”

Phil McNulty, who is behind the ‘Gilroyd Jungle’ Facebook page about the field, said: “I’m absolutely gutted for the people who suffered damage to their properties as this should never have happened.

“We’ll see what the fallout is from all of this, but sadly it was very predictable.

“The field has been left to grow for too long and the council did come a few weeks ago to cut it, but the dried out grass was left and that accelerated the fire.”

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, battled the fire and was in hospital for three nights having suffered from smoke inhalation.

He said: “I spotted the smoke and did everything I could to protect the hedges which separate the field from the houses but it was far too much and it swept from one end of the field to the other.

“Hot air rises and it flew up, but it’s something we’ve been fearing for a while.

“We’re lucky the wind was on our side as it could have been much worse if it was blowing another way.

“I spent three nights in hospital but it’s a miracle no-one was seriously injured.”

Coun Roy Miller, cabinet spokesman, told the Chronicle that it isn’t the council’s policy to remove the grass that’s cut.

“Through the schedule, Keresforth recreation ground is cut three times a year and had been mowed within the last two weeks of the fire being deliberately started.

“Like the majority of other councils, we don’t collect and remove the grass we cut.

“In the vast majority of cases, leaving the grass is by far the most efficient, cost effective and environmentally beneficial way to manage it.

“Our grass-cutting equipment is not designed to collect the grass.”