EUDORA, Kan. - Two barns south of Eudora, Kan., are gone after a fire Tuesday afternoon. It's just about the worst place for flames during a drought like this.
"I don't know how it started. It's very dry, it's hard to say," said Martha Mersmann, who lives just feet from the barns.
Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire. But Nancy Thomas, coordinator of the fire science division at KCK Community College, said conditions are ripe for spontaneous combustion.
"This is, as we'd say, the perfect firestorm," Thomas said.
She said heat, fuel and oxygen are all needed to start a fire, and they're all in place.
It all starts inside the bale of hay.
"It's mostly when the hay is put up wet and then it's stored for long periods of time," she said.
The moisture inside creates bacteria, which eats away at the hay, creating energy. Add in a 100-degree day and a small gust of wind, and it's the perfect combination.
Thomas said spontaneous combustion is more common than many think. She said it occurs inside compost piles, but rarely starts a fire. Thomas said she has also seen spontaneous combustion start inside sheds where people store leaves.
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