snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Science

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 31 January 2007, 04:08 PM
Monza305
 
Posts: n/a
Default Hay can cause barn fires?

There was a friend of one of my co-workers here this morning. They were talking about keeping your outside dog warm. He said to put hay into their doghouse, because hay produces heat. He then said that his uncle's barn burned down twice because of hay spontaneously combusting. Wet hay is even worse, he said. It just produces so much heat that it catches on fire.

This sounds like a load of mularkey to me. Has anyone else heard this?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 31 January 2007, 04:12 PM
Morrigan's Avatar
Morrigan Morrigan is offline
 
Join Date: 26 March 2001
Location: Vassar, MI
Posts: 5,358
Default

Yes.

http://www.aces.edu/dept/forages/hay/hayfires.html

Morrigan
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 31 January 2007, 04:13 PM
lazerus the duck
 
Posts: n/a
Default

As far as I know it's true hay mulches like compost and the right mix of dry and wet hay can cause combustion.

edit: Ah spanked by morrigan
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 31 January 2007, 04:26 PM
Monza305
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Well I'll be...

I figured too much moisture would be bad for fire starting.

You learn something new every day.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 31 January 2007, 04:29 PM
Astra's Avatar
Astra Astra is offline
 
Join Date: 29 September 2001
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Posts: 8,229
Default

One of my instructors used to be a fire investigator and ran across a few incidents of barns catching fire due to hay bales. One time he leaned up against one during what they thought was an arson and realized the heat was coming from inside the bale itself. Turned out not to be an intentionally-set fire after all.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 31 January 2007, 05:43 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
Join Date: 04 November 2005
Location: Borlänge, Sweden
Posts: 11,397
Default

Yep, it happens. When there's a powerout during the hay harvesting season, the farmers get nervous because the fans that dry the hay stop and if they are not restarted, a fire is likely. I suspect that with the modern fans, a different storage method (compared to pre-industrial) is used that works fine as long as the fans work, but not when they stop.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 31 January 2007, 05:48 PM
TurquoiseGirl's Avatar
TurquoiseGirl TurquoiseGirl is offline
 
Join Date: 28 October 2004
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 16,955
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Monza305 View Post
Well I'll be...

I figured too much moisture would be bad for fire starting.

You learn something new every day.
If you read the article closely, you will see that it is wet hay that is tightly bundled. This results in anaerobisis in the middle of the hay bale. I suspect that methane (or other combustibles) are produced by bacteria using anaerobic metabolism.

If you spread the hay out on the floor of the dog house (and change it regularly), it shouldn't be a problem.

You will still have to watch out for dog farts though.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 31 January 2007, 06:14 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is offline
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 67,138
Default

Re: dog bedding, my brother has used cedar bedding, the kind that's used for small animals, in his doghouse. It's warm and soft and it makes the dog smell like cedar.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 31 January 2007, 06:20 PM
Griffin2020
 
Posts: n/a
Default

If the hay is properly dried before baling, this is not really an issue. As Troberg said, it is the moisture in the hay that causes the heating (dry hay will not spontaneously combust).
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 31 January 2007, 06:33 PM
Brad from Georgia's Avatar
Brad from Georgia Brad from Georgia is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2000
Location: Oakwood, GA
Posts: 12,656
Default

Yup, it happens. Granddad also set up a little lumber mill on his farm and raked up a huge pile of sawdust. I remember some of the kids were walking past it one day and my cousin said, "That thing's smoking. This was in the pre-Mask days, and he was being literal--white smoke was curling out of this fifteen-foot high pile of sawdust. It had caught fire at its core, and we had to rake the whole thing down and pour water on it to put out the smolder, a mass of glowing red wood leavings.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 31 January 2007, 07:33 PM
PallasAthena's Avatar
PallasAthena PallasAthena is offline
 
Join Date: 13 September 2005
Location: Ventura, CA
Posts: 6,621
Default

Oh, cool! My suspicions about the compost heap are confirmed! My parents kept a massive compost heap when I was a kid, and whenever we'd go out to turn it, I was always amazed at the heat that would come out of the thing. It would get especially hot when they put the grass clippings in there. I mean, it was hot to the touch and steamy! My dad (an ag engineer FWIW) told me the grass got hotter because of the higher nitrogen in it.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 31 January 2007, 07:46 PM
Avril's Avatar
Avril Avril is offline
 
Join Date: 07 August 2002
Location: Princeton, NJ
Posts: 9,534
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
Yup, it happens. Granddad also set up a little lumber mill on his farm and raked up a huge pile of sawdust. I remember some of the kids were walking past it one day and my cousin said, "That thing's smoking. This was in the pre-Mask days, and he was being literal--white smoke was curling out of this fifteen-foot high pile of sawdust. It had caught fire at its core, and we had to rake the whole thing down and pour water on it to put out the smolder, a mass of glowing red wood leavings.
Something similar happened at a childhood friend's home. They had a hay stack which suddenly started smoking, so the family ran out, raked it all down to spread it out, and put out the fire in the center.

Avril
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 31 January 2007, 07:56 PM
TurquoiseGirl's Avatar
TurquoiseGirl TurquoiseGirl is offline
 
Join Date: 28 October 2004
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 16,955
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by PallasAthena View Post
Oh, cool! My suspicions about the compost heap are confirmed! My parents kept a massive compost heap when I was a kid, and whenever we'd go out to turn it, I was always amazed at the heat that would come out of the thing. It would get especially hot when they put the grass clippings in there. I mean, it was hot to the touch and steamy! My dad (an ag engineer FWIW) told me the grass got hotter because of the higher nitrogen in it.
Actually, the heat was a sign that the compost pile was working. It was actually, though, ddue to the breakdown of the cellulose by fungi. Lots of metabolic activity in the middle. The ecology of compost piles is actually quite interesting. Well to me at least. Because I am, like, a nerd.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 31 January 2007, 07:57 PM
Morrigan's Avatar
Morrigan Morrigan is offline
 
Join Date: 26 March 2001
Location: Vassar, MI
Posts: 5,358
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Re: dog bedding, my brother has used cedar bedding, the kind that's used for small animals, in his doghouse. It's warm and soft and it makes the dog smell like cedar.
They're better for dog bedding than straw because the cedar chips repel fleas.

Morrigan
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 31 January 2007, 10:13 PM
PallasAthena's Avatar
PallasAthena PallasAthena is offline
 
Join Date: 13 September 2005
Location: Ventura, CA
Posts: 6,621
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by TurquoiseGirl View Post
Actually, the heat was a sign that the compost pile was working. It was actually, though, ddue to the breakdown of the cellulose by fungi. Lots of metabolic activity in the middle. The ecology of compost piles is actually quite interesting. Well to me at least. Because I am, like, a nerd.
Oh, I know! I did a 4-H project on compost heaps when I was a kid (yeah, I'm a nerd, too), and I was delighted to feel that they actually did heat up!

What about the higher heat coming off grass clippings, though? Could that be caused by the higher nitrogen content in grass vs. banana peels and coffee grounds? It would make sense that the higher nitrogen would spur faster/more robust fungal growth, but there are lots of things that would make sense, but aren't so.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01 February 2007, 12:39 PM
Open Mike Night's Avatar
Open Mike Night Open Mike Night is offline
 
Join Date: 02 February 2004
Location: Michigan
Posts: 4,396
Baseball

This reminds me, that years ago, I was really into Green bulding practices, and the idea that hay bales decomposing put off a significant amount of heat, led me to sketch up a few designs for a hay bale, and other mulch, furnaces to heat a house. The idea that you could just put a bale in, introduce microrganisms and moisture, and get free heat really had me going. Then I thought about the fact that the primary emission from the furnace would be methane, and I started to look at how the methane could be captured also.

Then something shiney caught my attention, and I never did return to the idea.

At the price of gas, maybe I need to go see if I can find those sketches.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01 February 2007, 11:13 PM
TurquoiseGirl's Avatar
TurquoiseGirl TurquoiseGirl is offline
 
Join Date: 28 October 2004
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 16,955
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Open Mike Night View Post
This reminds me, that years ago, I was really into Green bulding practices, and the idea that hay bales decomposing put off a significant amount of heat, led me to sketch up a few designs for a hay bale, and other mulch, furnaces to heat a house. The idea that you could just put a bale in, introduce microrganisms and moisture, and get free heat really had me going. Then I thought about the fact that the primary emission from the furnace would be methane, and I started to look at how the methane could be captured also.
I can reveal too much, but there are several renewable energy proposals based on this sort of thing. Far more sophisticated, of course.

Breaking down cellulose in hay releases a lot of heat. Which is also why you get more heat when you burn cellose-containing stuff instead of, say, glucose.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 02 February 2007, 10:23 AM
High Eight's Avatar
High Eight High Eight is offline
 
Join Date: 30 December 2006
Location: Gillingham, Kent, UK
Posts: 280
Default

Happens to coal mine slag-heaps, too. There are a couple in Wales that smouldered for years.

Oh, and oil shale cliffs http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/kimfire.htm.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 02 February 2007, 02:57 PM
Morrigan's Avatar
Morrigan Morrigan is offline
 
Join Date: 26 March 2001
Location: Vassar, MI
Posts: 5,358
Default

On a note related to High Eight's post, there's been an underground fire for years over in Centralia, Penn. They figure it'll burn for more than 400 years longer.

Morrigan
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 02 February 2007, 03:13 PM
James G's Avatar
James G James G is offline
 
Join Date: 11 January 2004
Location: London, UK
Posts: 3,680
Default

The official report for a fire at the primary school at which my mum works identified 'spontaneous combustion' of a pile of clothing as the cause of a fire. (The fire began in a locked cupboard)
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 11:06 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.