A fire damaged about eight acres of land in a hayfield
A fire damaged about eight acres of land in a hayfield along Rt. 13, near the intersection to Shanghai Road on Saturday, July 14. The hayfield, belonging to Carrie Rowland, caught fire a little before noon.
"It was really a freak accident," Rowland said.
Her son, John Rowland, was mowing. As he turned the tractor to make another pass, he saw smoke down in a little hollow through which he had just come.
Rowland had his cell phone with him. He hurried to the top of the hill where he had reception and called 9-1-1.
According to Calvin Heironimus of South Morgan Volunteer Fire Department, the alarm sounded at the station about 11:37 a.m. Though the call was originally for South Morgan, Gainesboro, and Reynolds Store departments, Heironimus also called for help from Berkeley Springs.
Even with four fire companies working, it took about three hours to quench the flames. Two things complicated the situation – wind and hay bales. The
wind blew from the south,
feeding the flames and spreading them northward across the field.
"It really did burn very rapidly," Heironimus said.
At one point there was
concern that the fire would spread to the woods, but this was prevented. The hay bales, stored in the field since last year's mowing, created a
problem. When they caught
fire, they could not be extinguished by simply spraying them with the hoses. Even if the outside of the bales were sprayed, the fire in the center continued to burn. They had to be torn apart and the fire extinguished from the inside. Fifteen bales were lost in all, said Rowland.
An estimated total of about 12,000 gallons of water was used before the fire was conquered.
The fire is believed to have started when the mower struck a rock, sending off sparks into the hay. With everything so dry, the crisp field was ablaze in minutes.