A pile of goat manure was likely the primary factor in a fire Tuesday afternoon on a farm outside of Coupeville that took almost six hours to completely extinguish.
Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue personnel responded to a reported fire at around 4 p.m. on Engle Road.
A 40-foot-long metal storage container filled with approximately 400 bales of hay had caught fire.
Resident and farmer Mark Borden said he was burning weeds outside the container when he thinks some of the goat manure caught fire or at least got hot enough to combust. It was sitting next to the container and likely heated up the metal structure.
When he left the area, there was no fire, he said. He returned approximately 30 minutes later to see small flames in a patch of grass. He poured water over the flames only for the patch of grass to immediately reignite, he said.
The metal container seemed to have become so hot it lit both the grass outside and the hay inside on fire.
He noticed smoke rising from inside the storage container and called 911. He closed the container’s door, which helped restrict airflow to the flames. However, there were holes in the ceiling that continued to feed oxygen to the flames, he said.
Eight firefighters initially responded to the scene with three water tenders, according to Deputy Fire Chief Charlie Smith. He said the crew had to bring in a lot of water because there aren’t any hydrants in the rural area.
The fire’s origin was in the back of the storage unit, which had only one entrance. Smith said removing all the hay was taking so long, the crew called an engine company from South Whidbey Fire/EMS to assist. Additionally, an operator from Island County Public Works removed some of the bales with a backhoe, but the machine was limited in its reach, Smith said.
Another local farmer, Bob Engle, stepped in and brought his tractor with hay fork implements to drive inside the container and remove the burning hay for extinguishing, Smith said.
“We couldn’t have done it in such a timely fashion without him,” Smith said in an email Thursday.
“We might still be out there with fire personnel unloading the soaked and burned bales by hand.”
The hundreds of bales of hay were lost, but the nearby barn, animals and people were unharmed.
Borden said his primary concern was for the horses owned by the people he sells the hay to at a discounted price.