by Laura Colvin
Firefighters from Kuna’s Rural Fire District worked around the clock for several days last week to monitor and contain hay fires that burned in three separate locations around Kuna.
Kuna Fire Chief Dennis Johnson was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, but Captain John Charlton, a paramedic with the department, said the first call came in around noon, Wednesday, June 20, when 40-50 tons of hay caught fire at a residence near Ten Mile and Lake Hazel Road.
The second call came in just over 24 hours later, when a haystack caught fire just east, “a stone’s throw,” Charlton said, from the first fire.
Then, around 5 a.m. on Friday, June 21, a call came from a dairy farm off Swan Falls Road, south of Kuna-Mora Road.
Early estimates were that some 250 tons of hay was lost in the blaze, but Tuesday Charlton said the number was likely closer to 500 tons.
“It’s the largest (hay fire) we’ve had by far,” he said. “Sometimes we can put a hay fire out—if it’s small, just started and we get there quick and get a lot of water on it. With a fire that big, all you can do is control it.”
The main concern, he said, was to keep the blaze from spreading to other flammable materials near the stack.
While no one was injured in any of the fires, all the smoke made for an uncomfortable environment.
“Burning hay creates a lot of smoke, and it’s a nasty smelling smoke,” Charlton said. “That, combined with all the grass fires we’ve had lately, makes for a lot of smoke hanging in the air.”
Although cause had yet to be determined for the burning hay bales, firefighters speculated that one of the smaller fires may have been started by a spark from a vehicle.
And, said Charlton, wet hay can combust from a chemical reaction when it is heated by the sun – much like the process a “hot” compost pile undergoes.