Myton rancher suspects arson in massive haystack fire

Published: Friday, July 19 2013 6:50 p.m. MDT

Karl Lamb, left, and Duchesne County Fire and Emergency Management Director Mike Lefler look at what's left of Lamb's 2,000-ton haystack Friday, July 19, 2013. The haystack, which was at least 16 feet tall, caught fire about 12:30 a.m. Thursday, July, 18, 2013. Lamb suspects the fire was intentionally set.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

MYTON, Duchesne County — A third-generation rancher whose 2,000-ton haystack continued to burn Friday said he believes he is the victim of an arsonist.

"I'm positive they used an accelerant and went around the whole thing," Karl Lamb said. "I can't believe someone would do it, but that has to be what happened."

Volunteer firefighters from Myton, Duchesne and Roosevelt were called out about 12:40 a.m. Thursday to fight the fire that destroyed Lamb's 16-foot-tall haystack. The blaze was so big that people driving on US-40 a half-mile away continued to call it in as a house fire even after firefighters had begun trying to put it out.

"We made the decision on pulling the fire departments back and letting it burn, considering how big the stack was," said Mike Lefler, fire and emergency management director for Duchesne County.

"This one was just a hot fire," he said. "A lot of fire going on there to where we just couldn't get (the hay) separated to be able to save it."

Lefler walked the perimeter of scene Friday, looking for anything that might explain what caused the fire. He also asked the State Fire Marshal's Office to send out a specially trained K9 that can detect the presence of accelerants.

"We're going to try to do the best we can to help (Lamb) figure out what happened," Lefler said, adding that he also planned to check whether there were any lightning strikes in the area shortly before the fire began.

Lamb doesn't believe a lightning strike is responsible for the fire. He also dismissed the possibility that the flames were caused by spontaneous combustion, which can occur in haystacks.

"They say hay will do that, but I've never seen it happen," he said.

Lamb planned to feed the hay to his herd of 125 cows during the coming winter, and sell off any surplus.

"Now I just hope we can put up enough to get us through the winter," he said.

Lamb estimated the value of the haystack at $400,000. He has liability insurance for his farm, however that policy will only pay him $40,000 for the hay he lost, he said.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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