A smoky scene unfolded just north of Leavitt on Tuesday morning, as flames blaze through a ranchers barn, burning 1,000 tons of hay in the process.
“Just before 5 a.m. this morning we were dispatched to a structure fire with a hay barn shed fully engulfed,” said Dan Melvin, fire chief with Cardston County Fire Services.
Six emergency units from Cardston County were dispatched, but as the flames continued to burn, firefighters said there wasn’t much they could do to help calm the fire.
“It’s hard to extinguish this type of combustible, so we’re basically protecting the surrounding structures and trying to contain it to that area,” Melvin said.
The flames have already collapsed part of the 18,000 square foot structure, but the most concerning part could be what’s burning inside.
The fire is especially costly this year, after 2018’s dry summer caused shortages of quality hay across the prairie lands — meaning prices of the product quickly skyrocketed.
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According to owner Royce Leavitt, the bales being used to sell as exports are worth around $300 a ton.
That’s $300,000 worth of hay lost, and after being factored into the almost $100,000 cost of the barn itself, that’s a total loss of nearly half a million dollars.
Emergency responders say no cause of the fire has yet been determined, but added that hay is a highly combustible material, especially when stored wet.
“Depending on the conditions of when it was stored, that could have contributed to the fire or outside sources, but it’s hard to determine at this time” said Melvin.
Leavitt says he checks the moisture level often, keeping it between four and 12 percent as the hay must be extra dry when being exported.
Emergency crews will continue to monitor the flames 24 hours a day. They expect the blaze to burn out on its own, but say that could take up to five days.
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