A huge fire which tore through a Cumbria peat bog near Carlisle may have been caused by a meteor strike, according to some locals.

Firefighters spent several hours on Monday morning battling the blaze at Wedholme Flow, near Kirkbride, which at its height stretched for half a mile, leaving a wall of fire visible from miles around.

It has now emerged that some residents living near the bog reported seeing a white-hot meteor streaking through the night sky.

The theory is that it may have triggered fire shortly after striking the ground on Sunday night.

The nature reserve is managed by Natural England. Alasdair Brock, who is senior manager at the site, helped the team of 17 firefighters who tackled the blaze.

He said: "My wife Claire is a GP in Penrith, and a colleague of hers who was passing nearby saw the meteorite or something flashing through the sky in the general vicinity of the Solway mosses.

"I believe this man is a reliable witness, so it's entirely feasible this happened."

Natural England spokesman Will Herman said: "The meteor theory is a possible cause of the fire but there's no way now of verifying this as any meteorite is likely to have been small and would have buried itself in the peat, leaving little evidence.

"Our senior manager went out the next day to check that everything was out and to have a look around. Unfortunately he saw no evidence of the meteorite."

The meteor theory is thought to carry weight as the weather at the time of the fire was not particularly hot, and the area is not known for attracting vandals who might want to start fires, particularly late at night.

One eyewitness who may have seen the meteor was Paula Hinds, who was sitting at home in Langholm when her attention was drawn to a skylight. "It all happened in a split second," said Paula, 29. "I saw a light, like a firework but a lot bigger. It shot across the sky. It was about 10pm and it was heading towards Carlisle.

"It thought nothing more about it until the following morning when I heard about the fire and the idea that it may have been caused by a meteor."

Three fire crews from Carlisle, Wigton and Silloth used beaters to kill the flames as the fire spread.

A Cumbria fire service spokesman said: "The fire and smoke could be seen from several miles away."

David Sparkes, 57, who lives nearby, said the fire was first spotted by his 14-year-old daughter Marie.

"The whole lot went up very quickly," he said.

"Normally, the wind blows towards our house but fortunately that night it wasn't.

"We were out watching the fire until 12.30am."