Putting out Fires

This evening I saw M heading up to the last round bale and I assumed she might need help pulling off a couple layers to throw over to the cows.  This last bale was of less than stellar quality and we had intended to get it in to one of the cow paddocks already, but the all the rain had kept us from doing much of anything so it just sat there, undisturbed.

So anyway, as I approached M I saw a huge white cloud billowing out of the hay.  At first I thought it was mold or mildew, but no… it was steam.  The hay was composting and very nearly on fire.  So with daylight fading and Jim at work, M and I fought with that massive bale until we finally were able to flip it over and unroll it.  It was so hot on the inside that I very nearly burned my hand and the sleeve of my jacket was hot from the steam.  At the core it was perfectly dry and smoking, not steaming, so I think it may not have been too long before it had actually caught fire.  But once we got it all unrolled it cooled and I’ve checked it several times since and it’s fine although my hands still smell like rotting hay and my jacket smells like toasted oats.

This is exactly why I will never store hay in a horse barn, but will always have a dedicated hay barn.  I know that it’s usually green hay that is blamed for barn fires, but any hay that gets wet can start composting and therefore produce enough heat to burn.  And that’s just not worth the risk to me!

On a lighter note… why do these things only happen when Jim’s not here to enjoy it?

2 thoughts on “Putting out Fires

  1. Louise

    I missed this, somehow, so I’m sorry that I’m late commenting. So glad that you got that round bale unrolled and the danger of fire averted. You must have been worried, as you worked on it. You apparently saw it in the nick of time. Serendipity?


    1. Stonehead

      We had a near miss with barley a couple of years. We store bruised barley in 10-hundredweight steel bins and I went out one day to find clouds of steam and smoke billowing from the feed store. When I went in, cautiously, I discovered it was pouring from one of the steel bins. The sides of the bin were so hot the galvanising had turned white and was flaking off.

      I started shovelling the barley out the door onto the hard standing, protecting my hands with heavy gauntlets. As I got deep into the barley, it became drier and hotter, to the point where sweat dripping on it sizzled and popped.

      I was very much aware of the risk of fire and explosion, especially given the amount of dust in the driest sections. Fortunately, my worst case scenario didn’t eventuate but it was a little hairy for a time.

      Oh, and it’s amazing how quickly you can empty a 10-hundredweight bin with a shovel if you really, really have to!


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