Emma-area ranchers help neighbors after fire
Emma-area ranchers Tom Waldeck and Rory Cerise are getting a helping hand from neighbors to get their hay in after a fire destroyed one of their tractors and a baler Friday night.
Waldeck said former Emma rancher Willy Fender used a trailer to deliver a hay baler from Hotchkiss. It wasn’t being used, so Waldeck will lease it temporarily. Other neighbors offered to pitch in to get their freshly cut hay baled and stored, but Waldeck said he thinks they are set. A tractor from another ranch that Waldeck is affiliated with near Walden will be shipped over for the work.
“In this case, the neighbors were all terrific,” Waldeck said.
A relatively new John Deere tractor ignited and lit up the Emma sky Friday shortly after 10:30 p.m. Cerise used the tractor and baler earlier that day.
“He operated it right up to two hours before he found the fire,” Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson said.
Eleven firefighters and two engines responded to the scene and found the tractor ablaze in a field north of the Emma Farms homes and farm buildings. Thompson said the fire appeared to start in the cab of the tractor. The large, rear tires caught on fire, and the intensity ignited parts on the baler, he said.
“It appears there was some sort of mechanical malfunction in the cab,” Thompson said, adding that it was not a suspicious incident.
Thompson said the loss of the tractor was estimated at $90,000 while the replacement value of the baler is about $40,000. Waldeck said the tractor was covered by insurance. He said insurance investigators told him the fire was caused by an electronic malfunction in the tractor.
While the incident is distressing, the important thing is that no one was hurt, Waldeck said. It happened just when Cerise was getting to the first cutting of the hay fields on the ranch.
The tractor was parked in the cut portion of a hay field when the fire broke out. The charred metal frames remained in the field through the weekend.
The wind was blowing the flames away from the Crown, the mountain between the Roaring Fork Valley floor and the base of Mount Sopris. If the wind were blowing toward the Crown, which has steep slopes and dry vegetation, it could have presented wildfire problems, Thompson said. An irrigation ditch was located close to where the fire broke out, so it posed little threat of spreading, according to Thompson. Flames were starting to reach a large bale of hay, but they are difficult to ignite, he said.
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