Mention "bunk fire" to a volunteer firefighter, and you might get an eye roll.
Nearly every firefighter we spoke to at the scene of the fire on the Schumacher Farm in Pavilion today said when they heard "bunk fire" from the fire dispatcher, they knew there were in for a lot of work.
"They tend to be a drawn out affair," said Pavilion Chief Paul Dougherty. "The material is highly compacted. In fact, when they put it in the silo they go to great measures to compact it to keep the oxygen out. It's a smoldering type of fire that you've got to break apart until you've got it extinguished."
The fire was reported at 2:15 p.m. and Pavilion Fire was on scene until about 6 p.m.
It took thousands of gallons of water to deal with the fire and with no public water in the area, tankers were called in from Batavia, Le Roy, Alexander, Bergen, Stafford, Caledonia, and Bethany, as well as Le Roy's ladder truck.
The fire appears to have spread from a burn pile on the southwest corner of the feed bunk (a bunker used to store cattle feed) and up the feed pile and into bales of hay stored at the top of the bunker.
Crews had to battle the fire in the bunker and clear a safe path to the back in Le Roy's ladder truck in order to put out the hay fire.
Because of winds, hot spots spread into the adjacent fields.
"The wind this particular day is certainly not in our favor," Dougherty said. "It is feeding the smoldering material and also carrying embers out into the surrounding fields, which are at this point in the year wet and difficult to get into to put out any burning materials."
The Schumacher Farm straddles the Genesee County-Wyoming County line and the feed bunk is in Genesee County, while the main structures of the farm are in Wyoming County. No structures were threatened by the fire, being down wind from the feed bunk.
Tankers shuttled water into the fire, but the time between truck fulls of water was such that the ladder truck had to periodically stop shooting water on the burning material.
For this type of fire, the flow of water, however, wasn't critical. At one point, in fact, firefighters took a break for refreshments and rest since the fire was well contained and not going anywhere.
"The one difference between this type of fire and structure or house fire is that with a structure or house, getting water is a bigger problem," Dougherty said. "Here we've got time to get water set up. The fire is not really going anywhere. We're not going to get behind it."
If the fire was started by a controlled burn, there are exemptions for agriculture during the no-burn season. Also, Dougherty noted, the fire could have been set days ago and only became a problem after the wind kicked up today.
Also assisting at the scene were Mercy EMS (on standby) and the Salvation Army.
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