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Haystack fire expected to last for days
A juvenile was arrested in the Winterhaven area Thursday afternoon after allegedly setting a large haystack of more than 200 bales on fire.
The haystack is expected to burn for several days and may be detrimental to the air quality in the Winterhaven area and in the northern part of the city of Yuma.
“When you get up in the morning, you are going to smell this because once the hot air cools down, (the smoke) goes flat out into the whole valley,” said Chief Steven Taylor of the Winterhaven Fire Department. “It's going to be stinky.”
The haystack, located next to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks near Picacho Road and Winterhaven Drive, was set on fire at about 3:30 p.m. Shortly after the blaze was sparked, Quechan Tribal Police picked up a juvenile fleeing the area. The child was then placed in the custody of the Imperial County Sheriff's Department.
When WFD firefighters arrived on scene, the fire had spread to a nearby utility pole next to the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
“It is a low-voltage line and they use it for communication,” Taylor explained. “When we got here, that pole was on fire and fully engulfed. We were able to put it out and have been coming back every hour to monitor it.”
The proximity of the fire to the railroad tracks prompted Union Pacific to close the southern track. The northern track remains open. The second track allows trains to park and let opposing trains pass by before crossing the railroad bridge over the Colorado River, which has only one track.
“Usually you will have a train with tankers and combustible materials, and they will leave them sitting here,” Taylor said. “But since this fire is here, they can't do that.”
The fire will prove costly in both terms of money and man hours, Taylor said, noting the bales of hay were worth at least $10,000 to the farmer. “Right now they have shut down one track, so it is definitely costing Union Pacific money. Plus the farmer loses out, and I lose out having people wait here.”
WFD will monitor the fire but will not put water on it because that will not extinguish it, Taylor said, noting the addition of water would make the fire smoulder and last longer.