Hay Field Fires Dog Pott County Firefighters, Farmers

Sunday, September 11th 2011, 9:35 pm
By: News 9

Jamie Oberg, News 9

MCLOUD, Oklahoma -- As if the summer drought weren't tough enough on farmers and firefighters already, firefighters in Pottawatomie County were called out twice Sunday to extinguish fires in a field full of hay.

To make it worse, fire officials are investigating the possibility that the fires may have been intentionally set.

McLoud Fire Chief James Nelson says it is suspicious, but he says getting to the bottom of the cause of Sunday's fire on Blackberry Rd. is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

For the farmers already taking a huge hit this summer with hay, this couldn't have come at a worse time.

"It's never any good when something like this happens," fourth-generation farmer, Josh Rooker said.

You could say farming is in Josh Rooker's blood; when he heard his father's field full of hay bales may have been intentionally set on fire that blood boils a little.

"Who knows why people do what they do?" he said.

"It was extinguished this morning, and then we were called out again at noon," Nelson said. "It had re-ignited or we're really not sure what happened, it's too early to tell."

While firefighters from McLoud, Shawnee, Bethel Acres and Newalla get to the bottom of the fire, the fourth generation farmer says it could be worse.

"We're a lot more fortunate than a lot of other guys around the state," Rooker said.

Oklahoma broke heat records this summer and now 2011 is on track to become the driest year ever recorded. It's been tough to put out fires across the state.

"The forecasts do not look good, so yeah, we're expecting more of this," Nelson said.  "I hope they're wrong."

Chief Nelson also hopes he is wrong about his initial suspicion on the hay fire, and hopes it was not set on purpose.

"We're just glad it wasn't all here in one spot," Rooker said. "We'll get by, we'll be OK."

Firefighters on scene said the fire took out about 30 large bales of hay, worth more than $3,000