• Last modified 989 days ago (July 29, 2021)


Bales rekindle after 7-hour blaze

Staff writer

Burning hay is so tough to put out firefighters often don’t bother.

They roll burning bales into a field where they won’t do damage and let them burn, Marion department chief Chris Killough said.

A blaze that started at 1:20 p.m. Friday in a trailer loaded with 34 round bales two miles east of Florence on US-50 gave Marion, Florence, and Cedar Point firefighters no choice but to keep battling for seven hours.

Florence firefighters were called back to the scene twice when it rekindled.

“If it were in a field, it would not be a big deal. We could let it burn, but it was too near the highway,” Killough said. “With all that smoke over the road, we could not do that. So we were out there six or seven hours.”

Florence fire chief Mark Slater said the cause is still being investigated.

“Hot brakes are one of several things that could have started it,” he said. Slater didn’t know the name of the trailer’s driver, but said he was from Marion County.

A county worker with a front-end loader pushed the burning bales off the trailer into a ditch before firefighters arrived.

Sheriff’s deputies narrowed traffic on US-56 to one lane.

Firefighters doused the blaze until 8:30 p.m., when Slater announced it was out and released all departments from the scene.

“There was a lot of hay out there and it was time consuming,” Slater said. “All of it is compressed grass, so it takes a while to get extinguished.”

At the same time, dispatchers paged Peabody firefighters to a broken gas line in an alley behind 2nd St. between Maple and Elm Sts.

Burns firefighters were dispatched because no Peabody firefighters responded. When they didn’t answer, Slater offered the help of his department.

“Please respond, Because I have several units available.” said Slater. “We can go ahead and start rolling there. We have cleared our scene.”

Assistant fire chief Jim Philpott said firefighter Chris Carr had issues with his radio.

Carr said he answered dispatchers three or four times, but never got a response. Slater told him to switch channels and when he did they answered.

By then, he already was on scene six minutes after the initial page.

He didn’t understand the problem because he was using a Peabody channel dispatchers had responded to before Friday’s incident.

“Dispatchers are supposed to hear all channels on the radio,” he said adding that all channels go straight to dispatch.

Florence firefighters were told they weren’t needed at 8:37 p.m. Peabody shut off the gas and turned the problem over to Atmos Energy crews.

Two hours later, dispatch paged Florence firefighters to US-56 when the fire rekindled. Seven with the department battled the blaze until 12:30 a.m., when Slater released them.

After firefighters spent nearly 12 hours soaking burning bales, any spark in the charred bundles looked like it had been extinguished.

However, by 3:12 p.m. Saturday, Florence was paged to US-56, for a third time, when a caller alerted dispatchers to a grass fire.

Firefighters who checked the scene told dispatchers the remnants of the blaze would likely continue to smolder for some time.

Last modified July 29, 2021