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Haystack catches fire, spreads to surrounding bales

July 26, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer
  • Westmorland Firefighter Sal Torres aims a blast of water at burning hay bales. CUAUHTEMOC BELTRAN PHOTO
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BRAWLEY — Firefighters from throughout the Imperial Valley battled haystack blazes that erupted Wednesday and burned into the early-morning hours today inside a hay compressing company southeast of this city.

While the cause of the initial fire was unknown this morning, fire officials do know the blaze started in a stack of Bermuda grass hay about 20 minutes after it was hauled into Border Valley Pressing at 604 E. Mead Road.

The fire, which spread to other haystacks, broke out just before 3 p.m. and county fire crews were called at 3:12 p.m.

The fire ignited in a large stack of hay placed under a metal shaded facility inside the hay company, which is at the intersection of Mead and McConnell Roads.

If there was any good news from the fire, it was that there was no west wind hampering the effort to control the blaze, said county fire Capt. Lon Hettinger.

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The other good news was there were no injuries and temperatures were a bit cooler for the firefighters because it was nighttime.

The fire required a second-alarm call by 6 p.m. as the blaze spread. Some 24 firefighters were called to the scene from the county, Brawley, Westmorland, El Centro, Holtville and Calipatria fire departments. A crew from Centinela State Prison also helped battle the blaze.

One problem, Hettinger said, was the effort to move hay not thought to be burning away from the fire actually caused the blaze to spread to other haystacks.

Hettinger said apparently some of the hay moved away from the fire had hidden burning embers and that allowed the fire to advance to other stacks, increasing the work of fire crews.

Workers at the hay company joined the effort to control the fire, helping put water on the blaze and using forklift-like devices to spread the hay to make the fire easier to control.

Fire crews remained on scene this morning, trying to keep the area wet and prevent any hot spots from rekindling.

Hettinger said there was no determination of a cause of the fire as of this morning. He said the crews' main focus was making sure the fire did not restart.

He said it was difficult this morning to determine a damage estimate.

Border Valley employees declined to talk about the fire when contacted by a reporter this morning.

Staff Writer Mario Renteria contributed information to this story. Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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