MORRIS – Spontaneous combustion caused a several hundred hay bales to catch fire Tuesday morning, destroying 200 bales by the time flames were extinguished.
Crews from Morris, Coal City, Lisbon, Gardner, Channahon, Minooka, Marseilles and Mazon battled the hay-bale fire for more than four hours Tuesday.
It was called in shortly before 11 a.m., and when the flames were finally out in the afternoon hours, Chief Tracey Steffes of the Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District said the cause was spontaneous combustion of the hay.
The fire was on a Lund Road farm belonging to local farmers Don and Vickie Lowery. According to their daughter-in-law, Jessica Lowery, Don and Vickie were not home – they were on their way to Indiana – when the fire broke out.
"The mail lady actually called it in. She was dropping the mail off and saw the fire," Steffes said.
Their son, Eric Lowery, and three neighboring farmers worked quickly to salvage any bales. In the end, about 200 bales – a significant portion of the pile – were lost to the fire.
Jessica Lowery said the family needs the hay to feed its several head of cattle, which they tend to in Morris and Joliet.
"They put a lot of time and money into that hay. They need it to get through the winter and feed their animals," Steffes said.
"It gets very expensive to feed [cattle], so it's a big thing for us to save the hay so this farmer can continue to feed his cattle," he continued.
Fire crews used backhoe tractors to break open and move the smoldering hay bales away from the remaining bales to help contain the fire.
"Once the fire gets going on the inside, you've got to bust the bales apart," Steffes said.
Several agencies were needed to haul water to the site of the fire since there was not a hydrant nearby.
"It's just a very slow process, and it takes a lot of water," Steffes said.
No one was injured in the fire.