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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 13:08 GMT
Tortoises rescued from barn fire
The tortoises had been given warm baths to start waking them up
About 120 tortoises awoke from hibernation to be rescued from a barn fire.

Neighbours reported an orange glow over barns at Little Boarzell Farm, Hurst Green, East Sussex, just before 2345 GMT on Saturday.

Farmer Chris Ellis, helped by his family and neighbours, shooed 400 lambing sheep out of the barn and then rescued the tortoises.

His wife, Sue, said: "A few minutes more and it would all have gone up."

She said when they arrived at the barns where the sheep were kept, the shed stacked with large, round bales of hay, was already alight.

"We had just woken the tortoises yesterday by putting them in a warm bath," she said.

"You introduce heat and hopefully they pop out.

"It was a bit of a dramatic rescue - we ran in the shed and shooed out the sheep and then picked up the tortoises in an adjoining barn and took them to the kitchen.

"They weren't actually active yet."

Import ban

She said it was not known how the fire started.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was at the single-storey barn, off Ticehurst Road, for about two hours.

A spokesman said the livestock had all been rescued when they arrived and 100 tonnes of burning hay and straw were dragged out into a field and left to burn - fire crews were returning to the field on Sunday to make sure the fire was out.

Mrs Ellis said the Little Boarzell Farm started breeding tortoises for pets after the government banned imports of the creatures from the wild.

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