AUTRYVILLE — A fire ripped apart a farm building and melted the side of a chicken house Thursday, requiring seven hours and more than 100,000 gallons of water to extinguish. More than a dozen fire departments — 60 personnel in all — responded to the blaze, reportedly the result of spontaneous combustion-type event.
The Autryville Volunteer Fire Department led response to the call, which came in at 12:45 p.m. Thursday at Bullard Farm, located at 390 Bullard Road. Autryville Fire Chief Andrew Hawkins said units responded and found a structure containing hay bales and heavy equipment fully involved.
“It was melting the curtains of a nearby chicken house,” said Hawkins.
He said there were close to 25 different units from 15 departments at the site of the fire.
“We kept a constant flow,” said Hawkins, noting 110,000 gallons of water used to fight the flames, a “significant amount,” he said.
The issue was compounded by the fact that the farm’s heavy equipment, such as a backhoe, which would often be used to contain the fire, were not available as they were in the burning barn structure. As more units arrived on scene, the fire was doused with water.
“It was just bad luck,” Hawkins said of the fire.
He noted that the heat, combined with the packed contents of the building, including rolled hay bales and heavy equipment, were a “perfect storm” that led to ignition. Hawkins pointed to some moisture in one of the bales as being the likely culprit. Wet hay is more likely to lead to a spontaneous combustion fire than dry hay, according to fire officials.
“It’s not an uncommon thing, when you have that much compacted material,” the fire chief stated. “Had it not been for the timely response. it would’ve extended into that other building and been much worse.”
The fire was believed to have originated in one of the hay bales. All told, the structure and contents, including the “four or five pieces” of heavy equipment, Hawkins gave a rough estimate of damage as being in excess of $100,000.
He credited mutual aid units for keeping the damage to a minimum. It could’ve been worse, said Hawkins.
Responding along with Autryville were fire departments from Stedman, Roseboro, Salemburg, Bethany, Beaverdam, Godwin-Falcon, Wade Community, Clinton, Plain View, Spivey’s Corner, Clement, Garland, Vander and Herring. Sampson County EMS personnel, as well as Sampson County Emergency Management officials, were also on hand.
“If it wasn’t for them,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Managing Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.