Big hay shed fires

More than 1000 bales de­stroyed

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS - By Sophie Burge

Two sep­a­rate hay shed fires saw more than 1000 bales of hay de­stroyed only hours apart on Sun­day.

The first fire was called in at 5.30am at a Box­wood Rd prop­erty near Ber­ri­gan and razed close to 400 big bales of hay.

The sec­ond fire on a Maxwells Rd prop­erty near Finley was called in about 10.40am and de­stroyed close to 700 bales.

Both sheds were com­pletely de­stroyed, ac­cord­ing to the Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice.

South­ern Bor­der RFS com­mu­nity safety of­fi­cer Pa­trick West­wood said crews from Ba­rooga, Ber­ri­gan, Tocumwal and Finley at­tended the fires.

‘‘We turned out six ap­pli­ances and a crew of 25 fire­fight­ers within less than 20 min­utes at both sites,’’ Mr West­wood said.

‘‘How­ever when we ar­rived both sheds were fully alight and the big bales couldn’t eas­ily be shifted.

‘‘Gen­er­ally, once hay shed fires erupt it’s dif­fi­cult to save the bales or sheds be­cause of the nat­u­ral com­bus­tion that oc­curs, whether it be from cut­ting it a bit green or the mois­ture in the bale.’’

Mr West­wood said crews at both sites worked hard to pre­vent the fires from spread­ing in the hot, windy con­di­tions.

‘‘The real con­cern that day was be­cause it was a to­tal fire ban and once bales are alight they burn for days, so we try to man­age ex­po­sure by pre­vent­ing the fire from im­pact­ing any­thing else,’’ he said.

‘‘At the Box­wood fire a piece of steel fell down from the shed which in turn for­tu­nately pre­vented wind get­ting in it.

‘‘Crews un­der­took suc­cess­ful back­burns at both fires early in the morn­ing to in­crease the amount of burn area around the shed so the fire couldn’t es­cape.’’

Crews re­mained on scene un­til 6pm and will work with land­hold­ers to mon­i­tor the bales this week.

Mr West­wood said the fires serve as a re­minder for peo­ple of the volatil­ity of hay, es­pe­cially af­ter wet sea­sons.

‘‘Lots of hay fires oc­curred af­ter the wet sea­son in 2010 and 2011,’’ Mr West­wood said.

Com­ing into har­vest, farm­ers are urged to be vig­i­lant with con­di­tions and make the most of the RFS’s new har­vest­ing op­er­a­tion trial.

The trial in­volves pro­vid­ing a ta­ble for farm­ers to ref­er­ence dur­ing har­vest to give them an idea of when it be­comes un­safe to har­vest and pro­vides in­for­ma­tion of the risk of ig­ni­tion.

‘‘It’s re­ally a com­mon sense thing and we know 99 per cent of peo­ple do the right thing by them­selves and their neigh­bours (dur­ing har­vest),’’ Mr West­wood said.

‘‘We just want to see a safe har­vest and sum­mer this year.’’

For fire sea­son safety ad­vice go to www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or www.fire.nsw.gov.au

The hay shed fire at a Box­wood Rd prop­erty.

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