‘Spontaneous combustion’ of hay bales likely cause of Orleans barn fire

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 7:42 am on Friday, July 13, 2012

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire this morning that consumed a barn and several tractors. — Daily News/Cory Smith

ORLEANS TOWNSHIP — A second fire within a six-year period for local farmer David Brown will result in the rebuilding of one of his barns yet again after an early morning fire destroyed a barn, several tractors and dozens of hay bales that were kept inside.

Firefighters from five different departments began responding at approximately 1:30 a.m. this morning to 4666 Johnson Rd. after a neighbor spotted flames shooting through Brown’s barn, who then awoke him.

“I couldn’t believe it when I looked out the window,” Brown said. “All I could think was, not again.”

Brown said six years ago a fire destroyed three smaller barns on his property.

He then built the one larger barn that was destroyed this morning by hand and said he’ll more than likely have to do the same again.

According to Orleans Township Fire Chief Leslie Doty, the cause of the fire still is under investigation but Brown believes it may have resulted from spontaneous combustion of his hay bales.

“As dry as it is, with a sudden change in moisture, that’s probably what happened,” Brown said.

A firefighter with the Belding Fire Department attempts to extinguish hay bales that continued to burn this morning under a crescent moon. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Doty said spontaneous combustion is a “very likely” cause of the fire, but could not confirm the cause without investigating the fire further.

“That’s probably a pretty good idea, but we don’t really know yet,” he said. “We’re still investigating, but those hay bales will be burning for the better part of the day. We’ll be out here most of the day off and on making sure this (fire) doesn’t spread.”

According to Doty, no one was injured and they had yet to see if any livestock had been killed by the fire.

Brown said he may have lost one calf, but was able to free his other animals, including several dogs.

“I opened the kennel door and let the dogs out, they knocked my glasses off as they ran out,” he said. “I had a couple cows and calves in there, I opened the gate and I think they all got out, but I couldn’t see for sure because of all of the smoke.”

The Saranac, Belding, Ionia and Ronald Township Volunteer fire departments assisted on scene.

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