Haystack fire destroys Thunderbird Ranch crop
Gardnerville Ranchos – A haystack fire at the Thunderbird Ranch destroyed 250 to 300 bales of hay Tuesday evening along with a flatbed truck parked next to the stack.
The fire was reported at about 5 p.m. and expected to be out by 11 p.m. said East Fork Fire and Paramedic District Capt. Scott Fraser.
The Dressler Lane ranch is not served by hydrants so firefighters were drawing water from the Carson River and a canal and pumping it through two engines to battle the blaze.
“We had an engine drafting water from a portion of the canal or the Carson River and pumping that down 1,300 to 1,400 feet of hose to another engine that is spraying water on the fire,” Fraser said.
Fraser said they have no reason for the hay to have caught fire.
“I just think there must have been one wet spot and it just took off,” said ranch owner Jessica Ledbetter.
“When I first saw it I didn’t know if it was one of the houses on fire,” she said. “We’re OK, nobody was hurt. We lost the crop, the truck and a little bit of fence.”
Ledbetter, a 14-year Carson Valley rancher said she lost 246 large bales, 160 tons, worth about $16,000. She did not know the value of the truck.
“We finally get a good year,” she said. “First we had the flood this spring and we lost a lot of fence, but we had a great hay season. Great production. It’s tough, but it’s not going to make me quit.”
At one point the fire was about 75 feet away from a modular home.
Firefighters had the fire controlled by 8:30 p.m. and were working on an extensive process called overhaul to get the fire out.
“I hesitate to say that it’s out,” Fraser said. “Hay fires take a tremendous amount of time to overhaul. We’re still trying to fully extinguish it. It involved the entire pile. We’re using a back hoe to spread it out. Then we’ll wet it down and we’ll have to do it again and again. We have to do that with the entire pile.”
East Fork had help from stations 7 and 14 and volunteers from Sheridan, the Gardnerville Ranchos, Rhuenstroth and Genoa.
Ledbetter said, “It was neat watching the firefighters. It looked like it was a drill. There was no emergency.”
Fraser said he thinks the last haystack fire was a couple years ago.
How does a haystack catch fire on its own?
Wet hay is more likely to lead to a spontaneous combustion fire than dry hay.
High moisture hay stacks can have chemical reactions that build heat. Hay insulates, so the larger the haystack, the less cooling there is to offset the heat.
When the internal temperature of hay rises above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees C), a chemical reaction begins to produce flammable gas that can ignite if the temperature goes high enough.
Hay fires generally occur within six weeks of baling. Heating occurs in all hay above 15 percent moisture, but generally it peaks at 125 to 130 degrees F, within three to seven days, with minimal risk of combustion.
– Source Montana University communications department