When firefighters were called to a barn fire the afternoon of May 9 west of Hillsboro, they determined the best decision was to let the fire run its course.
Owner David Randall Hakes, 448 180th Road, Hillsboro, told firefighters he thought the fire was started by sparks when he was mowing. The fire spread to the barn, which was filled with about 100 bales of hay.
“It didn’t make sense to drag the hay out of there,” Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee said.
Strong winds would have spread embers, possibly starting new fires, he said. Hay bales on fire are difficult to extinguish even in the open, where they can be pulled apart, but it would have been much more difficult and dangerous to do it in an enclosed space.
After firefighters began fighting the fire, Hakes told Steketee the barn contained a 500-gallon propane tank, mostly empty. That made the fire potentially more dangerous and changed the firefighters’ approach, Steketee said.
The tank vented its remaining propane, causing plumes of fire in the barn. When the tank stopped venting, firefighters determined it was out of fuel and resumed fighting the fire using their original methods.
Steketee said it is important for property owners to alert firefighters of the presence of fuel tanks in a fire, because that changes the way they handle the fire. Without such knowledge, results could be disastrous, he said.
Hillsboro and Goessel fire departments, Goessel First Response, a Hillsboro ambulance crew, and Marion County sheriff’s deputies responded to the fire.