Suspicious Haystack Fires In Central Washington Means Major Export Is Up In Smoke
A blazing haystack puts out a ton of heat and light, and smells like a big cigar.
Early Saturday morning, Nov. 30, in Washington’s Tri-Cities region, a haystack was set alight north of Pasco in Franklin County. The fire was called in by an air traffic controller at the Tri-Cities airport in Pasco who could see it from miles away.
“I was across the road and it felt like a big warm campfire,” said Mike Harris with Franklin County Fire District 3. “It’s hotter than a house fire because it’s so dense.”
More than a dozen haystacks have been burned under suspicious circumstances in central Washington since early October. It’s concerning to the hay industry and law enforcement.
Most of the recent suspicious fires have been in Grant County, near Moses Lake and Ephrata.
Fires Not Uncommon
Hay experts and law enforcement say they see a rash of haystack fires in the Northwest every so often. But sometimes there’s decades in between.
Andrew Eddie, is a hay grower near Moses Lake. He says hay is flammable, it lights for many reasons, including when hay is put up too wet and creates its own smoldering heat.
“Along roads you’ll get cigarettes out the window and stuff like that,” Eddie said. “Two years ago we got a lightning strike on a stack, that was pretty unusual.”
But this year’s instances are likely more sinister. The haystacks are starting on fire too late in the year to be naturally caused by decaying wet weeds, or damp hay.
“Sometimes you have people that just want to start a fire,” Eddie said.
Eddie hasn’t lost a stack, but he works with farmers who have.
“It’s an incredible amount of work, and an incredible amount of money,” Eddie said. “Someone just comes along and lights it up for fun. It’s like taking a $100 dollar bill and lighting it up, times 10.”
Actually, these haystacks can be worth up to $100,000 depending on how large, what number of cutting it is, and the type of hay.
Catching possible bad actors is difficult for law enforcement and farmers. Each farmer might have more than a dozen stacks to babysit in far-flung areas.
“Grant County is a very large county, has a lot of rural areas, a lot of dark areas at night,” said Kyle Foreman with the Grant County Sheriff’