A baler caught fire Friday in a field at the Martin Nellans farm north of Peabody, sending plumes of smoke into the air visible for miles, and destroying the baler and the tractor towing it.
Doug Schmidt was driving a John Deere 4440 tractor and 568 baler combination owned by Blair Tharp of Marion, and had just finished baling a field of straw at the intersection of Newell and 80th Roads.
He was off the tractor looking for the best route to the next field when he turned and saw flames. He dashed back to the tractor, hoping to separate it from the burning baler.
“I saw the baler was on fire so I dumped the bale and got out here on the road and tried to unhook it, but it got too hot,” Schmidt said.
“We got out here and the baler was fully engulfed,” Peabody Fire Department volunteer firefighter Katie King said. Florence Fire Department also responded to the fire.
“There’s not much we could do for the baler and the tractor,” King said. “We went out into the field and took out the grass fire. They could’ve lost all their bales, and they didn’t lose any.”
Schmidt said he was uncertain what started the fire, but did have an idea why dumping the burning bale didn’t keep the baler from going up in flames.
“It’s all rubber belts in there,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt and King both indicated recent dry weather has created conditions during wheat harvest conducive to fires such as this one.
“I expect to see more,” King said. “I’m sure this is not the end.”