Osceola – A dairy farming family lost hundreds of round bales of hay and a hay shed in an early morning blaze Monday.
Spencer and Laura Nelson, owners of Century Star Holsteins, were milking around 7 a.m. when he walked outside and spotted smoke in the sky. He went to investigate and discovered the fire. He called 911 and a few minutes later Tom Barr, owner of Barr Construction, asking him to bring an excavator to the scene on Quinn Line near Micksburg Road.
Douglas Fire Chief Bill McHale said the call came in about 7:04, but to the Whitewater Region Fire Department as it is first response to this area of Admaston/Bromley Township.
Whitewater responded with six firefighters, a tanker and pumper, while Douglas responded with its three trucks and 13 firefighters.
Along with battling the hay, firefighters, many who grew up on farms, attempted to move as much equipment as well, Chief McHale said. A seed drill and a gravity box, auger and corn planter were removed, but not all were salvageable, he added.
“They worked feverishly to pull the equipment out,” he said.
Douglas firefighters used their dry hydrant on Egan Line, near the intersection with Burwell Road, to bring water to the scene, while Cobden Station firefighters from Whitewater Region got their water in Cobden.
While the cause may never be known, Chief McHale said it’s believed to be self-combustible hay, since some of the bales were put in this past June while others had been there for about two years. There was also no power to the building, and while it had been raining, no one saw lightning, he added.
He said the Sunday afternoon and overnight rain ensured no other structures or several acres of straw were affected by the fire.
“If this had happened Saturday, we could easily have lost other structures and been battling many, many acres of straw,” he said.
It was a smart move on Mr. Nelson’s part to call Mr. Barr right away, Chief McHale said, considering many times, “it’s normally our call to make.
“Without the excavator we could have been three days fighting the fire,” he explained. “It’s easier and safer to fight a fire like this with an excavator.”
Chief McHale said when hay burns there is white smoke due to moisture in the hay, and with the overcast sky, the fire was hard to notice, even though the smoke was billowing into the sky. He said Emily Nelson drove by between 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. and didn’t see anything.
“I saw the fire lights first before I saw the fire,” he said
Chief McHale said Whitewater’s pumper was released about 9:30 a.m. while its tanker left around 11:30 a.m.
“Whitewater did a good job,” he said. “We worked well together.”
While he is the top guy, Chief McHale credits the firefighters with their hard work.
“They gave up a day at work, but there weren’t any gripes,” he said. “Sometimes they aren’t thanked enough.”
He said the financial loss could total as much as $300,000 to replace the hay, building and equipment.
However, what is really satisfying, is everyone went home, he said.
“It makes it so much easier when no lives are lost,” Chief McHale stated.
Firefighters were gone from the scene by about 3 p.m. and from the firehall, after cleaning up, about 4:30 p.m.
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader