A stack of hay bales between Davis and Woodland, about 20 feet tall and covering 10,000 square feet on the ground, became a towering inferno Thursday night, but firefighters don’t plan to extinguish it.
By Friday afternoon the flames had died down, and Woodland Fire Department Battalion Chief Ernie Fatta said the massive bale near county roads 27 and 104 will be allowed to burn itself out.
“The game plan is just to let it burn,” Fatta said. “There’s no way we could put enough water on it to put a dent. The quickest way to let that go away is to let it burn.”
Fire Department officials will stick to their plan unless the fire begins to spread or winds pick up. Fatta said the nearest fire hazard is a rice field a couple of miles away.
Fatta said the Woodland Fire Department received a call from the Davis Fire Department about 9:10 p.m. Thursday regarding the fire, which Davis fire crews originally thought might be burning at the Yolo County landfill located two miles south.
Woodland and Davis firefighters stayed on scene overnight to monitor the bales, but no fire personnel were assigned to the blaze as of Friday morning, Fatta said. A property manager was watching the fire, on standby with a water trailer, instructed to contact firefighters if it starts to spread beyond the stack, Fatta said.
Fatta called it “very unusual” to have that much fire from stack of hay bales.
“It’s just amazing the amount of heat and material,” he said. “Normally hay stacks are separated. I don’t know why this was all piled, stacked in one big stack probably about 100 by 100 (feet). I don’t know why it was arranged the way it was, but this is exactly the reason why you shouldn’t do it that way.”
The fire was highly visible, especially at night, with smoke and an orange glow that could be seen from as far as 10 miles away. Fatta said dispatch received a number of calls from concerned Interstate 5 commuters.
The hay bales may continue to smolder for about a week, Fatta estimated. The bales had already shrunk in height from about 15-20 feet to half that size by the time fire personnel left the scene, he said.
Fatta said the cause of the fire is not known, but there are currently no indications that it was human-caused.
“If the conditions are right, they can spontaneously ignite themselves,” Fatta said. “Hay with the right moisture and temperature will start to decompose and create enough of its own heat to create its own fire.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the stack as a single hay bale.