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Tractor fire spreads to three hayfields; 10 fire departments respond

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"PILLAR POINT — Raymond A. Adams was fortunate that his hay was cut, sold and hauled away before a quick-spreading fire Tuesday afternoon swept through three fields he owns on Pillar Point, town of Brownville.

Dozens of firefighters from about 10 area departments responded at 4:45 p.m. to what originally was a tractor fire and ended up as a large hay fire at 24317 County Route 59, near B Adams Road. The flames were fanned by 20- to 25-mph winds and quickly spread to adjacent hayfields.

Firetrucks, tankers and other equipment lined about a quarter-mile stretch of the road while firefighters struggled to fight the fire. No one was injured and, somehow, a couple of small wooden structures weren’t even touched.

“The biggest problem is the wind that’s fanning the flames,” said Joseph D. Plummer, Jefferson County director of fire and emergency management.

Temperatures hovering near 90 degrees Tuesday afternoon also hindered firefighters, who often took breaks and were given bottled water to prevent dehydration, Mr. Plummer said. A Guilfoyle ambulance stood by in case the heat was too much for any of them.

A cause for the fire was not immediately known, but fire officials believe the tractor was involved. The heat from the blaze got so hot that the tractor’s tires melted away, and black, charred earth was all that was left of the hayfields.

Mr. Plummer said it was not the type of fire that could be attacked.

“All you can do is chase it because of the wind,” he said.

It took firefighters about an hour to put out flames in the hayfields, and they were kept busy with pockets of hot spots reigniting. The Fort Drum ATV brush team helped out by driving around on four-wheelers and spraying water from small pumps. Brush trucks also were used to battle stubborn spots that were smoldering.

The area covered by the fire was so big that firefighters were instructed to go to “field one, field two or field three” to extinguish the blaze, Depauville Fire Chief Larry Girard said.

A little before 7 p.m., a front loader was brought in to spread around some hay so it could be doused by firefighters.

A few hours earlier, Mr. Adams, 81, whose home sits across the street from the hayfields, acknowledged that he was lucky the hay had been cut a couple of days ago, or all of his earnings would have gone up in smoke.

“You know, I didn’t even think of that,” he said.

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