Thursday, April 24, 2014

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

"Where there's smoke, there's fire." Some of the cows didn't seem too concerned about a hay bale that was flaming just yards away from their morning buffet. But with 45 mph winds from the south, I didn't share their nonchalance.
A hay bale in a round feeder caught fire yesterday morning. We assume that it was caused by spontaneous combustion. Randy was returning from a doctor's appointment in Great Bend and saw the smoke. Since it was so windy, I'd opted for the treadmill in the basement, so I was oblivious that smoke was billowing from the south.

We grabbed shovels and went out to the pasture to try and keep the fire contained. Randy called Jake to fill a water container on the back of the 4-wheeler and to bring it to the pasture. 
The process of spontaneous combustion involves both microbial growth and chemical changes, according to a publication from Washington State University Extension. At the time, I was more concerned with putting out the fire and less with the root cause.
I began my campaign for Randy to call the fire department. The hay bale was south of a shelterbelt, and I was afraid if the fire spread there, the old cedar trees would light up like Roman candles on the 4th of July. That could spread all along the tree row, and my house and the old barn could be in danger, especially with the wind howling. Because the cattle congregate at the bales to eat, there was also plenty of manure to fuel the fire. There's a reason the pioneers used cow patties to heat their homes in the winter.
And, yesterday, Reno County was one of five Kansas counties in a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning for the possibility of "extreme grassland fire danger." (I always wonder how they designate the warnings by county lines. I'm guessing all of Kansas should have been in a red flag warning yesterday.)

"Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly and become very difficult to control," the advisory stated. (I had just read that as I prepared my Central Kansas report for KFRM 550 AM radio, so it was fresh in my mind!)

So, Randy called 9-1-1.  We were happy to see the lights and hear the sirens racing towards us from the south.
It may have seemed like overkill to have two small trucks, a larger truck and a supplemental water truck arrive to put out a hay bale fire. But we are very thankful for the quick response from the Sylvia-based Reno County Fire District No. 6 crew.
Once they'd put some water on the fire, Randy helped them move the circular bale feeder.
Then they could pour more water on the still-burning straw. 
Jake went to get the tractor so we could spread out the bale and knock down more of the flames.
We are thankful for the service of these volunteer firefighters. There just may be cookies at the May fire meeting.
You can see in this photo how much dirt the wind was moving. It was WINDY! Here, the truck was getting a refill from the supplemental tanker truck.

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