Hay barn fire blamed on spontaneous combustion

Staff writer

Fire in a hay barn on Nighthawk Rd. just north of Peabody erupted Thursday morning, reminiscent of a similar fire near Durham just a week before that burned for four days and destroyed more than $180,000 worth of alfalfa, equipment, and the structure housing it.

“I could smell it burning,” said neighbor Kim Nellans. “But every time I stuck my head out the door I couldn’t see any smoke.”

Eventually she noticed small wisps of white smoke curling near the ground and the bottom edge of siding on the barn. The barn is enclosed only on two sides and on the top.

Peabody Public Works superintendent Ronnie Harms also noticed the smoke as he drove by on his way back to Peabody after performing a locate on Nighthawk Rd.

“I smelled it and looked in my rearview mirror after I passed by, and I could see the smoke coming out, so I called it in,” he said.

When Peabody firefighters Colton Terronez and Clayton Philpott arrived, smoke was coming from an enclosed corner, the farthest from open access to fire.

They tried to put it out by soaking the area from which the smoke was coming. However, with no visual sighting of the fire they were unable to know for sure if they were making headway.

The height of the stacks and the fact the fire seemed to be in the only corner completely enclosed by metal siding made the job difficult.

They got a ladder and pulled a hose to the top of the haystacks, hoping for better access, but still could not get water to the bales that were burning on the bottom.

Eldon Wiens is owner of the hay that was stored in the pole barn. He arrived after Peabody firefighters had been fighting the fire without much success for half an hour or so.

He called for a loader and started hauling bales out into the field once it arrived.

Additional help from Peabody, Burns, Hillsboro, and Florence fire departments also arrived. The added personnel and equipment eventually extinguished the fire.

Peabody Fire Chief Mark Penner said the cause likely was spontaneous combustion.

“Even though we had a storm with lightning earlier that morning, I don’t think the area where it started was exposed enough for a lightning strike to have started it,” he said. “Same for arson. It started in a hard-to-reach area. And some of the hay was still green. It’s just one of those unfortunate things.

“We were lucky it got called in early and lucky it didn’t burn all the bales and the hay barn, too.”

Penner said it took about two hours to get the fire out. He did not have any figures about the dollar amount of the loss.

Last modified Aug. 3, 2016