FOUR boys are being hunted by police after an arson attack on a derelict barn in Banbury.

All emergency services were scrambled to tackle the 'large and aggressive' fire which took hold at Bretch Hill Farm, near Broughton Road.

Police believe the fire was started deliberately shortly after 1.30pm today and that four boys were seen running away from the scene as the flames took hold.

Oxford Mail:

The derelict barn was engulfed in flames and nearby farm buildings were also damaged, plus a number of trees left scorched.

Houses in the nearby area had to be evacuated, while at its height four fire crews were called to help extinguish the blaze.

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Investigating officer PC Dominic Watson based at Banbury police station said the fire had a 'considerable impact' on emergency services and residents in the local area and it is lucky nobody was injured.

He said: "I am appealing for anybody who witnessed this incident or believes they know who the offenders are to make contact with police.

"This was a large and aggressive fire which needed police, fire and ambulance attendance.

"The impact on local residents and landowners was considerable, but thankfully, nobody was injured as a result of the blaze.

"At this early stage of our investigation, I believe the suspects to be local to the Bretch Hill area and have local knowledge."

He added: "I am appealing to anybody with any information, no matter how insignificant this may seem, to contact the 24-hour non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 43190309375.

"I am appealing to any parents in the local area, do you know where your children were this afternoon?

"This was an intentional and dangerous act that has impacted the local environment, land owner and the local community.

"It was also resource intensive for all three emergency services."

Anyone with details can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or make a report online.