We had just finished adding a floor to the hog hut when the town fire alarm sounded. We looked up and saw dark smoke billowing over the trees at the edge of our property – where the HogZilla was working. We ran, actually Rick ran I got in my car, to see what was happening.
We arrived just after the fire department did, and flames were shooting out from underneath the HogZilla machine.
I am told that the flames were shooting up as high as the tree tops a few minutes earlier. Amazingly, the fire department didn’t think it was a priority for me to take pictures of the flames and they started putting the fire out. Lynn, one of our town volunteer firemen, was shooting water at the source of the fire.
Both of our town’s fire trucks – the brand new 1983 model and the old one -responded and soon the truck from the neighboring town arrived too.
The trucks ran out of water and shuttled back and forth to the fish hatchery to re-fill their tanks.
In spite of all the water, the HogZilla still had flames visible after several minutes.
The HogZilla holds a huge amount – approximately 500 gallons – of hydraulic fluid and it was all on fire. Greg, the guy who was operating the machine, had the good sense to dig a trench around the machine when it started burning so all the fluids were contained and the fire didn’t spread to the nearby trees.
Greg also dumped loads of dirt on the machine trying to smother the flames. All this before he was able to call 9-1-1 because we live in the middle of nowhere and don’t have cell phone service here.
Greg had to get in his pickup and drive into town to alert the fire department. Eventually, after many truckloads of water, the flames were extinguished.
The county fire marshal arrived to investigate the cause. There had been a couple of incidents of vandalism in the area recently and they wanted to be sure it wasn’t arson.
It turned out to be a broken hydraulic line which leaked fluid on the hot engine and poof it caught on fire – nothing Greg did to cause it. The owner of the company arrived and it was nice to see how well she and the rest of her employees handled the difficult situation.
They spread out absorbent toweling to keep the fluids from spreading.
Then put on special stuff down on the spill to absorb the fluids and keep it from contaminating the ground. They were still on the scene well after midnight cleaning things up.
Everything considered, it could have been a lot worse. No one was hurt, no property damage and the company has insurance so the HogZilla machine will either be re-built or replaced.
The ironic thing about all this is the HogZilla machine has been at our place for almost four months. They chipped our slash piles all winter when they were able to dodge the rain and snow enough to get access to the “back forty.” Greg had just finished up the last of our piles and moved the machine to our neighbor’s Bill’s place to do Bill’s one pile on his way out of town. He had only been working there for a couple of hours when the hydraulic line rupured and the fire broke out.
If the fire had happened in the far back area of our property the fire trucks would never have been able to reach it – the only road back there is dirt and at this season, over eleven inches of rain in the last five days, it is mostly mud. Our neighbor’s place is right off the road so the fire department had good access.