A uniquely rural phenomenon has arrived in the Magic Valley sooner than expected because of recent rains.
Bales of hay are spontaneously igniting.
The year’s first victim in Jerome is Adrian Boer, who spent Saturday morning driving front-loaders with the manager of his dairy, shoveling hay away from a 220-ton stack that burst into flames.
“We took as much good hay off as we could and saved as much as we could, but the wind kind of kept us from working on the east side of it,” Boer said.
“Because of the smoke, we couldn’t even see.”
Greener, younger hay tends to produce mold, and the pressure of all the hay compacted together generates heat, said Bob Ohlensehlen, extension educator for Twin Falls County.
The right combination of chemicals and heat brewing inside the grass sparks flames, he said.
“I can remember when I was a kid, sometimes you’d break the hay open and it was molding in there and you’d touch it and it was hot,” Ohlensehlen said.
Igniting hay bales are an occasional rural catastrophe, occurring most often in the summer. But some predict that if the trend of unusually warm, wet weather continues this winter, it will cause more problems in months to come.