Hay fires costly for farmers



August 27, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Allen County Undersheriff Bryan Murphy figures about 400 bales of hay with value approaching $40,000 have been lost to fires in isolated fields on either side of the Allen-Anderson counties line since Aug. 1.
“We had two more fires Thursday,” Murphy said Friday.
They were in pastures in northwest Allen County and didn’t involve any hay, just pasture grass.
“Last year we had a rash of fires the first four months of the year, about 50 altogether and mostly of hay bales,” Murphy said.
About 10 have occurred this month, all classified as arson cases.
“You might have a few that are accidental, but not very many,” Murphy said.
Some of the fires have started in road ditches and then burned to where hay was stored. An occasional ditch fire might be the result of a cigarette tossed from a vehicle, Murphy said, but “that wouldn’t happen very often.”
The most damaging of the fires consumed about 250 bales of hay just into Anderson County directly north of LaHarpe.
“The bales weigh about 1,500 pounds and hay is selling for $120 a ton,” Murphy said, which translates to $90 to $100 per bale.
Hay prices have soared with the temperature and prolonged dry weather this summer. It is a valuable commodity in the wintering of livestock and because of parched pastures some farmers already are feeding hay, which usually doesn’t occur until early winter.
Sheriff Tom Williams said his officers were concentrating on solving the arson cases and this week have received information that led them to develop several leads.

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