On Thursday afternoon I found myself sprinting across a hay field with a fire extinguisher in one hand and a fire flapper in the other. No, this was not some sort of crazy workout, this was real life.

A little backstory. My uncle Jerry is also a rancher, and he puts up a lot of hay. The last four years he has had absolutely terrible luck with his balers. He bought a new one, and his daughter was running it and it caught fire due to faulty wiring. It was a very windy day and they were unable to get it unhooked in time to save the tractor. The tractor and baler were total losses.

After an extended fight with the insurance company and the manufacturer (New Holland) he finally got another new baler. So far that one has also caught fire numerous times, all of which they were able to catch in time and put out. After emptying a fire extinguisher for the fourth time on the baler this year, he finally parked it beside the road with a “For Sale” sign on it. He hooked up his old baler and went back to work.

I was finished with my hay field work at home, so I went to help him and ran another baler and tractor he had. We’d been working about a week and were only a few hours from finishing for the year. Suddenly Jerry’s voice crackled over the radio “Tami, bring your tractor over here! I have a fire!” I didn’t really get excited, because I thought was a prairie fire started by sparks – it was starting to rain a bit and the fields were cut to stubble. Then I came over a hill and saw it was much, much more than that. My uncle was outside the tractor trying to unhook the baler, which was totally engulfed in flames.

I checked my cell phone and happened to have one bar of service. I didn’t know the phone number for the fire department, so I called my mom and said “CallthefiredepartmentJerry’sonfire!” and hung up. Shortly thereafter I found myself sprinting around the field trying to put out flaming windrows of dried grass.

My uncle was able to save his tractor, and we got the grass fires out by the time the fire department got there. One of the firefighters is a friend and when he got out of the truck he came over and hugged me and wanted to chitchat. I was all like “Good to see you too. I don’t know if you noticed but there’s a FIRE OVER THERE!” I guess firefighters don’t get as excited about roaring flames as non-firefighters. Granted, it was all out except the baler, which just had to burn itself out, but FIRE, dangit! Fix it!

One thing I realized during all of this is: I really need to lose weight and get myself in shape. This wasn’t some hypothetical situation, this was REAL FREAKING LIFE. People could have been hurt, or killed. I needed to be able to run fast and lift things and beat flames out, and I was borderline unable to do it. I had to sprint to the flames, bend over and take a few breaths and then whack with my fire flapper. Unacceptable.

Time to get myself together. I see lots of hill sprints, sled drags, farmer carries and deadlifts in my future.

Oh, and never, ever under any circumstances buy a 2009 or later New Holland baler. They are utter and absolute crap.


2 thoughts on “Fire!

  1. Wow, that is some bad luck withe baler business for your Uncle. We run Vermeer and have been pretty happy with that, but yea you know how that stuff goes.
    I’m on the FD in my area and it is vitally important that a person is in tip top shape – sadly though I seem to be the only one that thinks so. But you got the right idea, farmers carry’s, sprinting, sled work. Not sure if you have a vest or even pack and can go for a “hike”, but that gets me pretty ready for anything if I do that topped with some sprints a couple times a week.
    Btw we just finished our haying for the year last Friday – thank goodness!!!!
    Anyway great story, I’m off to train now…….

    • Congrats on being done with the hay! I know that’s a good feeling.

      I’ve heard good things about Vermeer balers. The firefighter friend that wanted to chat has a Vermeer and a New Holland. In two years he’s put in four clutches and two shafts into the NH and had little to no trouble with the Vermeer.

      The weighted hikes are a good idea, I’ve seen on your log that you do that. I’ll have to rig something up for that and try it out.

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