CRAIG COUNTY, Oklahoma - A serial arsonist has set fire to 166 hay bales in Craig County.

Authorities say six different ranches in Craig and Mayes County have been targeted over the past few weeks. The damage is climbing in dollar amounts and putting ranchers in a tough spot as hay season ends and winter waiting around the corner.

After several years of drought, hay producers in Oklahoma finally have a good hay crop, and then an arsonist torched their livelihood.

There isn't much rancher Bill Propp can do other than watch the smoldering. Propp is the latest victim.

"It takes about three days to burn them down,” he said.

At about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, an arsonist set fire to Propp's hay near Big Cabin, destroying $6,000 worth of his round bales.

Propp: "Everybody ought to bring some weenies hadn't they, have a big roast.”
Reporter: At least you're keeping your sense of humor about it.”
Propp: “Yeah. If we hadn't had extra hay I wouldn't though."

Kidding aside, it's a big problem. Hay lost now will mean a tougher time feeding cattle during the winter. It's the sixth time in the past few weeks an arsonist has set bales of hay on fire in the two counties.

Rancher Dean Schneider has lost hay twice.

"I don't know what the mentality is to do something like this,” he said. “It accomplishes nothing, just destroys stuff. I just don't understand it."

It's a lot of effort and expense gone to waste. Neighbors are already patrolling in two hour shifts to watch out for anything suspicious.

"The people that did it must have something wrong with them,” Propp said. “They must have a reason for doing it."

Ranchers will meet with law enforcement from Mayes and Craig Counties, and state investigators, to raise awareness about the problem.

The public meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at the Adair FFA building.

"You put in all the time and money to make the hay, and you need if for all your cows in the winter, and to just go up in smoke for no purpose at all, it's frustrating,” Schneider said.

Propp added, "They will be caught if they keep on."

All ranchers in the area are invited and encouraged to attend the public meeting Friday night. Organizers hope to generate enough money to offer a reward for information in the case that leads to an arrest and conviction.