Hay Fire Burns Rancher

Two Tonto Basin fires destroy hay in separate barns

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In separate hay fires Tuesday afternoon in Tonto Basin, a man covered in gasoline was burned when he tried to put one of the fires out and two dogs narrowly escaped injury.

It was the first time the volunteer fire district responded to hay fires and one of the few times it had two blazes in one day.

Although the man escaped serious injury, both barns were a total loss.

The first fire started about 1:30 p.m. at the south end of the district. Hunters reported seeing smoke coming from the open-sided barn or pole barn to the Forest Service. When firefighters arrived, the barn was completely engulfed. The homeowners were away at the time.

Firefighters rushed to move livestock, pull tack out of a shed, move an ultra light plane and Jeep and drag two pickups out with chains from the barn, saving all from damage.

Tonto Basin Fire Chief Steve Holt said he believes the fire started from a battery charger left on a quad.

The fire quickly spread from the quad to nearby hay, lighting the barn up like a tinderbox.

A tack shed was destroyed along with tools, equipment and a truck.

Luckily, a puppy and dog tied near the hay fled after flames burned through their leashes.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Holt said.

Four hours later, firefighters responded to another hay fire.

About 5 p.m., a fire erupted in an old barn at the Del Shay Ranch, at the north end of Tonto Basin.

Two brothers working in the barn had a fire going in a bucket for heat. When one of the brothers moved a trailer full of hay, he backed into the bucket, knocking it over.

Trying to stop the blaze, the men drove the trailer out of the barn and spread the hay around the yard. However, this further spread the flames.

One of the brothers was unknowingly covered in gasoline and oil after working with a chainsaw all morning to move a fallen tree off his home.

When the man attempted to snuff the blaze, he too caught fire. The man dropped, rolled and jumped into a nearby pond.

He was driven to Payson Regional Medical Center with non-life threatening burns.

When firefighters arrived, the barn was a giant bonfire so they focused on stopping the fire in the yard.

Firefighters saved an older singlewide trailer and camper parked nearby. Although the fire had spread underneath the trailers, it did not spread inside.

The man rushed to the hospital was later treated and released Tuesday night, Holt said.

By Wednesday morning, Holt said all of his firefighters were dragging.

“We have never had a hay fire and we had two in one day,” he said.

In Pine, the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department responded to a possible house fire in the 6500 block of West Pine Cone at 8 a.m., Tuesday.

The fire turned out to be an overheated outlet.

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