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The fire began in green baled alfalfa stored in a covered structure near Midway Road and Sikes Road, shown in this Google Maps image.

Alfalfa fire smoke from Dixon drifts to Sacramento

Published: Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 - 9:34 am

An alfalfa haystack fire that broke out at a Dixon dairy farm has been contained but will continue to smolder for at least two days, according to the Dixon Fire Department.

“Haystack fires can’t be fully extinguished,” said Greg Lewis, division chief of the Dixon Fire Department. “But it’s no longer a serious threat.”

The department estimates that about 500 tons of haystacks – worth about $180,000 – were lost in the fire, which sent smoke drifting over Sacramento.

At around 4 p.m. Wednesday, firefighters responded to a building on HD Ranch near Midway Road and Sikes Road, where stores of green baled alfalfa caught fire. A pair of engines, two water tenders and two command vehicles were dispatched.

Firefighters and farmworkers immediately worked to remove the burning bales and poured water over the remaining feed. The fire continued to burn until 1 a.m. Thursday.

Lewis said the fire “was controlled to the point where the building in which the hay was stored was not damaged.”

However, the farm will have to assess whether smoke has damaged the salvaged bales before feeding them to livestock.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but Lewis said he suspects it could be a lack of moisture in the hay bales combined with the fact that they were densely packed.

“It works just like a compost pile or a freshly cut grass,” he said. “When you have a haystack, when the moisture content is low and it is densely packed it generates a decomposition and chemical process that generates a lot of heat and if that isn’t controlled, it can get so hot to the point it ignites.”

Despite the smoky smell in some Sacramento neighborhoods Thursday morning, the fire did not cause any noticeable decline in air quality, said Lori Kobza, spokeswoman for the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District officials said they will continue to monitor the direction of the wind and the level of particulate matter in the Sacramento region.

“The issue with hay and alfalfa fires is that they really have to smolder out and it’s kind of a long process,” said district spokesman Tom Hall.

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

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