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  • Last modified 2247 days ago (July 25, 2012)

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Hay bales burn near Marion

Staff writers

When Roy Wessel glanced at one of the enormous stacks of hay bales Saturday, 10 were engulfed in orange flames.

Quickly he tried to put out the growing blaze by dumping distiller onto the bales using a bulldozer. By the time he had gotten in the bulldozer, scooped a pile of manure, and was driving back to the hay, it was too late.

He had put out hay fires for a fire department before. He knew nothing was going to halt the fire with so much fuel ready to burn.

To Wessel’s knowledge, no one was standing near the bales. There was little outside influence that could have sparked a fire.

Landowner Dale Peterson thought it could have been a piece of stray pipe that reached a boiling temperature in the afternoon sun.

Wessel believes the blaze’s origins to be of spontaneous combustion. He said some of the bales had been sitting in the same place for three months.

In less than an hour, two solid months of work was gone — time in the pasture bundling straw, wheat stubble, and brome was lost to the 12 black fiery monoliths that now stood where hundreds of bales had populated the rural countryside.

What was going to bring sustenance to cattle and horses and put money in the pockets of Wessel and Peterson, was destroyed.

Two whole days later, the piles of charred ashes still silently smoldered, Wessel said Tuesday.

Marion and Florence firefighters worked until dusk just to contain the fire on Saturday. Fire trucks went into town to fill up at Eastmoor United Methodist Church. The tanker trucks made the 5-mile trip several times during the day.

Still, the remnants of the inferno were enough to spark another fire in one of Peterson’s pastures on Sunday.

Now Wessel and Peterson have the task of rebuilding. Peterson was talking with insurance agents and adjusters about a possible claim for the hay and pastures on Tuesday.

He said it will take at least $100,000 to recoup the losses from the fire. The bales alone could be worth $150,000 with high hay prices, he said.

Being the full-time hand at the land, Wessel will repeat much of the work to restock those bales. The same heat that may have aided the old stacks lighting in flames will help with their replacements. Wessel is planning to bale dried corn stalks. Soybeans may be next if the drought continues.

Welcome assistance has come from neighbors around the property who have offered to give Wessel and Peterson enough hay to get them through the season.

Last modified July 25, 2012

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