COLUMBIA — Several 1-ton hay bales caught fire and caused a barn to burn to the ground Wednesday morning in Hallsville.
The Boone County Fire Protection District responded to the fire at 9:47 a.m. There were about 400 gallons of diesel fuel in the barn at the time of the fire. Fire Chief Gale Blomenkamp said the person who reported the fire said there were explosions at the site before firefighters arrived.
The exact cause of the fire, its starting location and the extent of its damage are still being investigated, Blomenkamp said.
Thirty firefighters, 12 trucks and an ambulance responded to the fire at 10051 N. Route Z. The property owner also helped put out the fire, using a tractor to isolate the burning hay bales so firefighters could extinguish them more easily. Blomenkamp said burning hay bales are particularly difficult to extinguish because flames tend to move toward the bales' centers.
The Fire District tested a new type of hose to douse the fire, Blomenkamp said. The hose is operated on the ground instead of being hand-held and can release up to 500 gallons of water per minute.
Although the cause of the fire remains undetermined, officials warn that current weather conditions put the area at greater risk of fires. The National Weather Service issued an elevated fire danger warning for Columbia for Wednesday afternoon and early evening.
Extreme dry conditions over the past few months have made the vegetation in the area "tinder box dry." On Wednesday, strong southwest winds, along with the dry vegetation, high temperatures and low relative humidity have created a serious risk for fires, according to the weather service.
Several burn bans are in effect in the area. The weather service is encouraging people to be very cautious if they engage in any outdoor burning because conditions are favorable for the rapid spread of grass and brush fires.
Thunderstorms are predicted for late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, and high temperatures are expected to top out in the 90s through the next week.
Fareeha Amir contributed to this report. Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.