Agency RSS

Preventing Wildfires While Baling




For Immediate Release: June 23, 2016

Media Contact: Jeni Lawver, 605.381.7232


Preventing Wildfires While Baling


RAPID CITY, S.D. – Because of dry conditions in the western part of the state, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division (SDWF) has seen an increase in fires that have been started while producers are baling hay. SDWF urges farmers and ranchers to be prepared in case a wildfire starts while they are baling.


“Fire safety in the field has two key components -- prevention and preparation in case a fire does break out," said Jim Strain, deputy director of South Dakota Wildland Fire. "Both are important and can mean the difference between disaster and controlling the situation for minimum of damage or work stoppage."


SDWF shares these fire safety reminders:

• All machinery should contain an approved fire extinguisher of adequate size that is easily accessible. There are two types of extinguishers, the powder extinguisher for electrical and petroleum based fires and the water extinguisher for vegetative fires. You may need to carry both kinds of extinguishers.

• Store hay away from combustibles such as gasoline, fertilizers and pesticides, as well as open burning areas like burn barrels, brush piles and vegetative burning.

• Leave 30 feet of mowed grass, bare ground or rock between the bale groups, creating a solid fire break.

• When cutting hay in open pastures, make sure the sickle bar or cutting discs are set above any protruding rocks. Sparks from the impact of the metal hitting rocks while cutting hay in pastures or road ditches start wildland fires every year in South Dakota.


“Unfortunately, the risk of wildfire doesn’t end once the hay is baled. Many bale fires occur by spontaneous combustion of moist hay, usually within six weeks after baling. Check stored hay frequently for hot hay or an internal hay fire. Be aware of a caramel or strong burning odor, a visible vapor or smoke, a strong musty smell and/or hay that is hot when touched. If any of these occur, call the fire department immediately but do not move the hay. Moving it introduces oxygen to the overheated or smoldering hay, fueling the fire and increasing rate of spread,” said Strain.


If a fire occurs:

• Remain calm and call 911 immediately. Provide clear, concise directions to your location. Many field and bin sites do not have 911 addresses, so be prepared to identify an intersection or landmark to help responders find the exact location.

• To help control field fires until firefighters arrive, quickly disk a fire break approximately 15 feet wide around the fire.

• To assist with a structural fire, make sure there are no flammable objects nearby and if the circuit panel is safely accessible turn off the building's electricity. If time allows, evacuate any livestock. Also, if possible spray high-pressure water on any surrounding vegetation or structures, discouraging spreading embers. Do not take risks.

• After using any equipment to fight a fire, look it over thoroughly for any embers that may start the equipment on fire.


South Dakota Wildland Fire can be found on Twitter @SDWildlandFire and on Facebook by searching SD Wildland Fire.


Agriculture is a major contributor to South Dakota’s economy, generating $25.6 billion in annual economic activity and employing over 115,000 South Dakotans. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture's mission is to promote, protect, preserve and improve this industry for today and tomorrow. Visit us online at http://sdda.sd.gov or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


- 30 -