Source: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
People baling hay need to make sure the hay is ready before baling and storing.
National Wildfire Manager Tim Mitchell says the reminder is to try and head off preventable haystack fires.
“Right now around the country, conditions are not great for baling because of the frequent rain some areas are getting and overcast conditions,” he says.
“It’s really important in baling that the moisture content is right and they’re not rushing the process.”
Hay must be completely dry before it’s baled, stacked and stored for use as winter feed. Any moisture deep inside a bale can decompose and heat up enough to cause a fire.
“I know it’s tempting at this time of year – we all want to get things squared away before Christmas,” Tim Mitchell says.
“This can put pressure on people to get the work done quickly and miss some crucial steps. But getting bales into the shed before they’re completely dry is a recipe for all the bales going up in flames. Sometimes this happens and people lose the shed as well, and everything else in it.”
Every year Fire and Emergency is called out to fires started by hay bales which spontaneously combust.
Most hay bale fires start between two and seven weeks after storage, so Tim Mitchell says this is when people should be checking their bales.
“Use a steel rod to check the hay is not overheating,” he says. “Hay should be stacked loosely to improve airflow and keep the bales cool.
“Ideally store them away from things that could feed a fire after it starts – such as sheds, hedges and trees.”
There are also warning signs to look for if your hay is in a shed, such as steam condensation on the roof, mould growth on or inside bales, and acrid fumes or hot humid air at the top of the stack.
“It’s better not to get to that point,” he says. “If everyone takes the extra time to dry the hay out properly, hopefully we’ll see far fewer haystack fires this summer.”