420 tons of hay catch fire in Fresno County

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Gusty winds pushed flames 30 to 40 feet into the sky, with smoke visible across much of the Valley. (KFSN)

Gusty winds pushed flames 30 to 40 feet into the sky, with smoke visible across much of the Valley. The fire had enough heat for the National Weather Service satellites to spot it from outer space.

The pile of hay looked a lot like its neighbors on this otherwise vacant property, and it gave the fire a lot of fuel. But counterintuitively, it also created its own fire because unlike the others, the pile of hay was wet.

"When the hay is wet, it'll start to decompose and it's going to create heat inside the middle of that pile and it'll spontaneously combust," said Jeremiah Wittwer, Cal-Fire Fresno County.

Firefighters made sure the flames did not jump past the one hay pile, but because there was so much fuel, pouring water on it would've just created more smoke. So as smoke filled the sky throughout the day, Cal-Fire let it burn and kept a close eye on it.

Wind blew the smoke east and then north, which was fortunate for the Orange Center School District just a quarter mile away, but to the southwest.

"That's definitely on our side, but we're monitoring that just to assure it continues that way and our kids are safe," said Terry Hirschfield, Orange Center School Superintendent.

The school kept students indoors for most of the day, but by early afternoon, the pile burned smaller and firefighters went on offense. A few loads of water doused the flames and cut down the smoke

"You know we have these types of fires all across western Fresno County. You'll notice more response here because it is a more populated area," said Wittwer.

Firefighters said this fire is a good reminder that it is about time to clear vegetation from your property. They said in drier weather, the school and all the neighbors could have been in danger.

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firebrush firefresno county
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