By CRISTIN REECE
Traffic on Texas 19 west through Montalba was diverted when possible — and just stuck when not — after a load of hay caught fire Wednesday afternoon.
Montalba, Tennessee Colony and Bradford volunteer fire departments responded to a call concerning the conflagration on the side of the highway around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Montalba Fire Chief Joel “Tiny” Parish said nearly 30 round bales of hay were consumed by the flames and the flatbed, gooseneck trailer they were being transported on also was destroyed.
Officials said the driver of the truck, from Davis Farms out of Athens, pulled over after noticing his load was ablaze. No injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
“Me and my wife were standing out in the garage when she noticed smoke coming from the road,” Montalba resident Nathan Nutter said. “We came around front and (the driver) was unhooking from the trailer, which was on fire. Naturally, we called 9-1-1. They were here in less than four minutes. I was very impressed. We couldn’t ask for better fire departments out here.”
Firefighters contained the blaze and remained at the scene until nearly 5 p.m. Wednesday, Parish said, making sure the fire didn’t spread to adjacent fields since there was an intermittent but stiff wind blowing at the time of the fire.
“It’s still extremely dry and we don’t want this one to start another one,” Parish said. “Anyone who wants to burn right now needs to be extra careful.”
Parish added hay bales are especially tricky to put out, once they ignite.
“They’re usually rolled up so tight, we basically have to unroll the whole thing to make sure it goes completely out,” he said.
Smaller vehicles traveling north Texas 19 were diverted around the scene via a small county road that circles back to the highway on Wednesday afternoon. Responders directed all larger vehicles — including another truck hauling several round bales of hay — and other drivers traveling south past the scene of the fire a few at a time via the clear, northbound lane. The roadway was reported clear by 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.
Anderson County constables, sheriff’s deputies, Texas Department of Transportation workers, Department of Public Safety troopers and the Red Cross also responded to the incident.