Straw bale fire early Sunday morning a hot challenge for firefighters from five depts.

    Firefighters from five area departments spent two and a half hours on the scene of a straw bale fire late Sunday morning in the northwest corner of Chase County.
    An estimated 500 large bales of straw were burning, and also threatened a nearby standing field of corn and CRP ground, said Nick Schultz, immediate past fire chief of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD).
    The fire was at the edge of the IVFD district south of Brandon, but Venango firefighters were paged out first and were the lead department on the call. The Lamar Volunteer Fire Department was also on scene when the IVFD arrived, Schultz said.
    Departments from Grant and Madrid responded, as well, to provide additional water and firefighting.
    The bales and ground on which they sit are owned by  Loren Jessen of rural Grant. The fire’s location was on 748 Road halfway between Avenues 320 and 321.
    Schultz said the pile of bales was one of several in the area, but firefighters’ primary concern at the time was protecting standing corn adjacent to the fire about 12 to 15 feet away. That field is owned by Dan Hughes of Venango, he said.
    “The heat was so intense that it was turning the edges of the cornfield black,” Schultz said.
    As firefighters kept the cornfield watered down and monitored the bales, Lamar Fire Chief Tyler Stanley returned with a tractor and disc and turned under several rows of the cornfield amounting to about an acre, Schultz said, to minimize chances of the fire spreading into it.
    Firefighters also back-burned some CRP ground on the other side of the fire to protect it, as well.
    Schultz said it was decided not to try to extinguish the burning bales.
    “There was no way to pump enough water on them to put it out,” he said.
    Tearing hundreds of bales apart and attempting to extinguish the fire would have been  a daunting task, he said.
    Since Sunday, firefighters have continued to monitor the smoldering bales. Lamar Chief Stanley said Tuesday the pile had burned down quite a bit, but there was concern with winds predicted that afternoon.
    Cause of the fire was undetermined.


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