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Fire-Fighting Hay Fork Helps Save Dairy Barns
"Most of the value of a dairy barn is in the lower part. If we can save the cows, pipe line, barn cleaner, stanchions, waterers, feeders, fans, and so on, we'll save the bulk of the value of the building," says Bill Michalek, of the Chippewa Falls, Wisc., fire department who's built a new hay fork that lets firemen remove burning or smoldering hay bales from hay mows in dairy barns.
Michalek points out that in most cases fire departments have no choice but to let a barn burn down if the fire starts in stored hay because there's no good way to remove the hay. They simply try to protect surrounding buildings. But if the hay can be removed before it burns through to the lower part of the barn, the farmer will probably still be able to milk and take care of animals while the upper part of the barn is rebuilt.
"We can now save most barns with fires in the hay mow. That means the farmer can move back in sometimes the very next day and milk," says Michalek, noting that the success of the hay fork has actually resulted in lower insurance rates for dairymen in the area. In two years of use, the fork has been used for 14 fires. In all cases the lower barn has been saved. The procedure by the fire department is simply to get the initial fire under control with water and then remove the bales as quickly as possible while continuing to put out fire that erupts.
Michalek built the hay fork from scratch after first building a wooden model to test it out. It weighs 2,500 lbs. and has long steel teeth that'll grab as many as 14 bales at once. If needed, the teeth can be quickly fitted during a fire with steel sheets that turn it into a solid-sided bucket for scooping up loose hay.
The Hay Bucket is operated by a crane. The Chippewa Falls fire department has agreements with several construction companies in the area that loan cranes to the department when a fire starts. The bucket itself is carried on its own special trailer and is pulled by a fire truck. It is also "on call" for several surrounding fire departments. Besides the crane and bucket, a Caterpillar is needed at the scene of the fire to push burning bales away from the barn as they're removed from the loft. Michalek says that in most cases insurance companies pay the cost of the extra equipment.
Michalek has had lots of interest from other fire departments in his hay bucket and he is taking orders. Cost is $7500, including transport trailer. He says one bucket can take care of a 100 mile radius area since the bucket is not needed at the fire until the initial burning is under control.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bill Michalek, Rt. 4,1400 Town Line Rd., Chippewa Falls, Wis. 54729 (ph 715 723-7614).


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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #3