COLUMBIA — A fire broke out Monday morning and burned 200 acres near Finger Lakes State Park** north of Columbia.
Farmer Joe Perkins was baling hay on land owned by the city of Columbia when the mower he was operating hit a rock and caused two sparks that eventually ignited the entire hayfield. Perkins is contracted to mow and bale hay on the property.*
Boone County Fire Protection District crews responded to the call around 11:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters had the fire under control by 3 p.m.
In the 3 1/2 hours the fire burned, it scorched about 200 acres, Fire Chief Scott Olsen said.
Battalion Chief Gale Blomenkamp said that by the time firefighters arrived at the scene, the fire had spread through the field and was approaching the tree line. The firefighters called for backup and immediately started working to prevent the fire from reaching the tree line.
A damage estimate was unavailable from the Fire District on Monday afternoon. But Perkins said about 50 to 60 bales of hay were lost, each costing about $50 to $60, for a total of $2,500 to $3,600 in damage.
“Unfortunately, once it sparks, it’s one of those things — something that can’t be helped,” Perkins said. “All we could do was call the fire department and wait.”
No one was hurt in the blaze, although two firefighters were treated in ambulances on the scene for heat-related issues, Blomenkamp said.
Firefighters used three water-hauling tankers, four fire engines and five small brush trucks to control the fire. Blomenkamp estimated that between 40 and 50 volunteer firefighters responded to the call.
Blomenkamp said the Fire District has seen an increase in calls in comparison to this two-week period in 2011. In the past two weeks, there have been around 40 calls, compared to only 11 in the same period in 2011.
Columbia has seen no significant moisture since May 16, which puts the area at an increased risk of fires, Blomenkamp said.
"With these dry conditions, that’s all it takes – one or two sparks like that," Blomenkamp said.
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