LINDEN — A truck hauling a full load of round hay bales was northbound on County Road P46 (D Avenue) several miles south of Dawson Saturday evening when the driver noticed his load was aflame.
The driver, whose name is yet to be released, pulled off the road and into a drive across the blacktop from the farmstead of Anthony and Robyn Ploeger, just north of County Road F31 (210th Street).
The Dawson Volunteer Fire Department received the initial emergency dispatch at 7:55 p.m. By 10:30 p.m., departments from Yale, Jamaica, Bagley, Perry and Panora had responded to mutual aid requests, as additional manpower and water were needed to combat the blaze.
According to Perry Fire Chief Chris Hinds, the driver of the semi told Dawson Fire Chief Bill Kempf that he was passed by a motorist who later turned around and, after speeding by in the opposite direction, “fired a flare gun into his load” and caused the blaze.
The truck pulled into the nearest drive — which happened to be opposite the Ploeger home and outbuildings — and detached his cab. By the time fire crews arrived, several bales were aflame.
“These bales are rolled very tightly, with the intention of keeping water or moisture out to protect the quality of the hay,” Hinds said. “Of course, that means once they catch on fire, it is almost impossible to put them out, no matter how much water you put on them.”
Area farmers arrived with heavy equipment and aided in removing many bales from the trailer and setting them at a safe distance. Numerous bales remaining on the trailer caught fire, with at least two tires destroyed in the conflagration and heat.
“There were 15 or 16 men from our department, at least 12 from Panora and probably 10 or more from YJB and four from Dawson on site,” Hinds said. “There had to be at least 40 men working the incident.”
Various emergency vehicles lined the road for half a mile, with tankers making several runs to a nearby rural water line in order to refill the portable tanks that supplied the high-pressure fire hoses.
Firefighters were in action until about midnight. Hinds said the only course of action was to “let what is left just burn itself out. Everything is safely scattered and won’t cause damage to anything else, even if the wind picks up, so we are confident and feel sure we can safely leave the scene.”
ThePerryNews.com will update this story as more information becomes available.