Millions lost in hay shed fire

The hay shed fire at J. T. Johnson & Sons on January 4. Photo supplied

Kapunda stock feed business, J. T. Johnson & Sons have started the new year with a significant clean up task after fire broke out in a hay shed at its Perry Road premises on January 4.

The fire, which investigators concluded started due to spontaneous combustion in a hay bale, is estimated to have destroyed between $2 and $3 million worth of assets, including up to 1,800 tonnes of hay and straw destined for export or pellet feed, and the 3,500m2 shed it was housed in.

J. T. Johnson & Sons General Manager, Mr Andrew Hayward said it was around 3 p.m. on January 4 when staff first realised there was a problem.

“We smelt smoke and saw a small bit of smoke coming from the shed,” he told The Leader.

“We rang the emergency line and the MFS and CFS locals arrived.”

Crews worked urgently to remove the smoking bales in an effort to protect the shed, but ceased when conditions became overwhelming.

“At some stage, the heat and the smoke became too dangerous for people to be in the shed, and eventually it just went up,” Mr Hayward said.

“It was both frightening and amazing to see how quickly it happened, and it was just a shame that we couldn’t save the shed, because we nearly did.”

Over 120 firefighters, including 30 MFS and 10 CFS appliances attended the initial blaze and for several days afterwards, as they removed hot spots and flare ups.

Crews will continue to monitor the site every five hours for the next few days, following another flare up on Monday. 

Mr Hayward said it was thanks to the quick response of local CFS and MFS crews, as well as good site planning and procedures on behalf of the company that the fire was contained to just one shed.

He said despite moisture testing of the bales always being undertaken, the risk of spontaneous combustion is never completely eliminated when storing hay.

“When (the bales) come into the factory here we test them before they go into the shed, and even though this one got through, in my memory, and I’ve worked here 25 years  or so, that’s the first fire we’ve ever had as a result of spontaneous combustion in the factory here,” he said.

Mr Hayward said the destroyed shed structure has been removed, and the business hopes to find a composting company that will take the waste hay.

“We’ve got to work through the process of what we do (next), whether it’s a replacement shed or any other alternatives for the future,” he added.

No jobs have been lost as a result of the fire and business will continue as normal at J. T. Johnson & Sons.

Mr Hayward extended his gratitude to the Kapunda community for their support and regretted any inconvenience the fire and smoke may have caused.

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