Arson Fire Destroys Hay Supplies In Washington County

Sunday, October 22nd 2006, 2:26 pm
By: News On 6

Volunteer firefighters spent the day putting out a hay fire in rural Washington County. It started with 18 and spread to 80.

Clayton Ullrich's Blossom started barking at 2 in the morning. They thought she'd just caught a skunk until someone driving by spotted the flames and called 911.

Volunteers from Owens and Company Fire rushed to the scene, while Clayton Ullrich watched his hay smoulder away. "There's no way to put these bales out once they start burning."

What can be done is move other bales out of harm's way. Some bales were just a little singed others were hosed down, just in case. Fire crews took extra precations.

Chief Todd Owens: "We have decided to go ahead and spray some foam on the second set of bales to try to contain them, to keep the fire from spreading on down further."

Firefighters and ranchers thought they had things under control, that was until this cold front went through, the wind shifted, and things really started blowing, making this hay a lot harder to handle. Flaming hay blew off the bales, and flew into the next field sparking new fires.

Clayton Ullrich: "When the wind blows up like this, there ain't no telling where it can end up with as dry as we are right now."

Once volunteer firefighters got the fire under control, Ullrich jumped on his bulldozer and drove into the smoke.

The new plan, dig a pit and bury what's left of the burning bales, to keep other fires from starting.

Working all day, they saved 500 bales but lost $5000 worth of hay, a valuable asset that won't be easily replaced. The ranchers are offering a $2000 reward if someone catches the arsonist. Those bales were headed to Texas for farms too dry to grow their own. And that ranch in Vera is one of the few places with hay to spare.

With the drought, hay is selling at a premium, up to $60 a bale.