While water is typically used to extinguish a fire, moisture is likely the cause of the flames at Holt Dairy in Newcastle, Utah.
Damp hay packed too tightly caused a spontaneous combustion reaction last Sunday, resulting in a massive barn fire. Suffering a complete loss of their storage facility, the family must now look for new forage sources during a time when most of the country is suffering drought.
“Hay fires will burn for weeks if not months if you just let them burn,” said Brenden Mood, chief of Enterprise Fire Department. “So we had to use equipment to pull the hay out.”
Battling the fire for seven hours, firefighters were able to extinguish the flames. However, the farm’s owners continued to spray bales throughout the week to ensure no flareups would occur, according to St. George News.
Research from Ohio State University shows most wet bales catch fire within six weeks of baling and contain moisture levels higher than 20%. Jason Hartschuh, guest contributor to Ohio State University Extension’s Ag Safety Program, recommends monitoring hay temperatures twice a day with a long probe thermometer.
Hartschuh says bale temperatures of 120° to 130° F often results in mold growth and makes the protein less available to animals. According to research from OSU, if the temperature in the hay continues to rise, reaching temperatures of 160° to 170° F, then there is cause for alarm.
If hay is baled with moisture levels higher than 20%, it is recommended to store these bales outside unstacked. The ventilation will allow bales to breath and go through a “sweat” period. Once moisture levels fall below 15%, bales can be stored indoors but should still be monitored closely.
For safety information regarding hay fires, read these stories below: