A MAJOR field fire 'caused by a combine harvester exploding' destroyed an area the size of 25 football pitches in South Oxfordshire this afternoon.

The blaze, off the A4155 near Shiplake, forced some residents in the South Oxfordshire village to evacuate their homes.

Fire crews will remain at the scene overnight after 60 firefighters and 10 appliances battled the flames.

Eye-witness Simon Chandler filmed the aftermath and said farmers were attempting to help fire crews fight the blaze.

He wrote on twitter earlier today: "Currently a 'major fire' in Bindfield Heath, near Henley.

"A combine harvester exploded. Farmers are currently trying to plough the field in order to create fire breaks, but the 'flames are whipping up' according to one resident."

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service received reports of farm machinery on fire at 1.04pm.

Appliances from Henley, Wallingford and Henley attended, supported by colleagues from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue.

A nearby pub and other premises were temporarily evacuated by Thames Valley Police and residents in nearby Shiplake advised to shut doors and windows.

Herald Series:

A photo from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service showed the aftermath

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service manager Paul Bremble said: “This incident escalated rapidly because of the extremely dry conditions and a strong wind.

“We would again urge the public to take extreme care in the countryside as the heatwave continues.

“That means no open fires or BBQs except in designated areas and not throwing cigarette ends from vehicles.

“If you do spot a fire in the countryside, don’t tackle it yourself, dial 999 and give us as precise a location as you can using road junctions and local landmarks where possible.

"The quicker we get there the quicker we can contain the incident.”

Temperatures were expected to reach 32 degrees Celsius in South Oxfordshire today as the country experienced its hottest day of the year.