Large hay fire burning in west Fresno County

Authorities expect the flames to die out sometime next week.
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fire crews said haystacks went up in flames early Wednesday morning near Mendota. At times, you could see the fire shooting up to 30 feet in the sky.

Firefighters were called to North Avenue, west of Highway 33, to find 1,800 tons of hay up in flames. The home nearby has been vacant for years. Fire investigators said they've made contact with the previous owner, Emilio Calzada, but don't yet know why the hay was left there-- only saying it's not uncommon. "It's a rural area, not a lot of foot traffic. We haven't ruled out arson yet," said Captain Paul Pumarejo, Fresno Fire.

Because of the difficulty getting water to the area firefighters have decided to just let it burn. "It'll probably burn itself out cleaner than we would trying to put this out, and, due to the drought, it'll probably be more beneficial to let it burn out," said Pumarejo.

Because of the way they're so tightly compacted they're expecting the piles to burn throughout the week.

Throughout the morning wind conditions proved favorable. "If we have a wind shift at all we'll have exposure to the tree lines, and would affect PG&E's infrastructure as far as their lines and power poles go," said Pumarejo.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said it is closely monitoring the area. "See what's burning, make sure there's no unusual substances in there," said Jamie Holt, Valley Air District.

So far, no major increases but as the temperature drops, Air District officials said, we might see the smoke come closer to the ground. Warning residents to be aware. "If they see smoke, smell smoke, they're being impacted by it," said Holt.

As a significant rain-maker heads our way both the Valley Air District and fire officials anticipate the conditions to improve.
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