DIAMOND, Mo. —
Nearly 50 firefighters from nine departments on Thursday afternoon ultimately hemmed in a grass fire, but not before it destroyed two outbuildings and about 700 large bales of hay north of Diamond.
Authorities said the blaze, reported about 11:30 a.m., spread quickly in the wind, scorching roughly 300 acres of pastureland in the area of Missouri Highway 59 and Aspen Road.
Mike Judd, with the Diamond Fire Department, said no homes were lost or damaged, but apparently there were some close calls.
Flames came within 30 feet of Edith Ruark’s home at 2540 Highway 59. She said she was called home from work by her mother-in-law who lives next door. When she arrived, Ruark said, flames were closing in and threatening her two horses.
Ruark said she managed to rescue her horses, but she lost two storage buildings and all of the grass that feeds her animals. She said she will be forced to buy much more hay and feed for her animals through the winter.
“We have 160 acres,” she said. “Now it’s all gone.”
Judd said Jim and Rose Body, owners of Body’s Truck Repair, lost almost all of their hay as well as a couple of salvaged vehicles stored on their property.
The fire was under control by about 2 p.m., but Judd said windy conditions made the flames hard to contain. He said flames jumped from the west to the east side of the highway about 30 times during the day, but by the afternoon, the fire was confined on the west side of Highway 59.
Judd said there is no indication of how the fire started, but the cause is under investigation. He said firefighters will likely have to monitor the blaze for hours to make sure the large bales of hay are extinguished.
“You just about can’t put a big round bale of hay out without tearing it apart,” he said. “Once the fire gets inside of it, you could dump a thousand gallons of water on it and it’ll still burn.”
Smoke from the blaze caused the Missouri State Highway Patrol to close Highway 59 from Route FF well north of Diamond to Route V in town. The road was reopened after 3 p.m., though the fire was not extinguished and smoke still blanketed the roadway.
Judd said that in addition to the flames, firefighters were also contending with afternoon temperatures that topped 100 degrees. He said heat exhaustion was a real concern for firefighters wearing up to 60 pounds of protective bunker gear.
“The heat is unreal,” he said. “We have a rehab center set up for them, and I’m trying to rotate guys through it.”
Darrell Donham, with Newton County Ambulance Service, said several firefighters were treated for dehydration with intravenous fluids. He said an air conditioned cooling trailer was also available to firefighters who became overheated.