Most of the pasture south of Gary and Marilyn Jones’ house, barns, and outbuildings lies burned and black after a fire Monday afternoon blazed across about 20 acres, destroying the grass and vegetation.
“We were really lucky, though, that none of the barns or sheds caught fire,” Marilyn Jones said. “The buildings themselves are old, but Gary had tractors and other equipment in them. And the hay barn is out there too — that would have gone up in seconds.
“We don’t think the fire got anything but the grass. And Gary did notice what he thought was damage to some wiring on an electric pole that runs a water pump for watering the sheep. An electrician is coming in the morning to check that out,” she said.
Near the northeast edge of the burned pasture, the Joneses also own a house that they converted into a bed and breakfast about 25 years ago.
“No one is staying there now, but that would have been a loss if it had caught fire,” she said.
Jones said there was one casualty they initially thought might have been related to the fire.
“Flash, our miniature donkey, was dead in his stall. He was 42 years old and hadn’t been looking very good for several days. At first we thought maybe the smoke might have gotten to him, but he had been dead for a day or so,” she said.
The call to Marion County Dispatch came in at 1:09 p.m. as a controlled burn that got out of hand. Because so few Peabody firefighters are in town during the day, those answering the call and fighting the fire requested mutual aid assistance from Walton just before 1:30. Peabody had a tank truck and brush truck spraying the edges of the fire, but wind and dry conditions moved the flames faster than firefighters could get water on them, quickly expanding the perimeter. Walton provided a second brush truck. The fire was reported under control at 2:45.
After the fire, Jones said there was confusion about the controlled burn comment.
“We were not burning,” she said. “I have no idea where the fire started. I saw and heard the trucks go by and could smell smoke when I stepped outside, but I didn’t dream it was that pasture on fire. There were no sheep in the pasture, only Valentine, the llama, but our neighbor Lisa Mosqueda got her out and put her in another fenced area. Really, we were awfully lucky.”
Peabody Fire Chief Mark Penner said that he was not part of the crew that fought the fire, but the question of whether or not it was a controlled burn is under investigation at this time.