Location: North Haverhill, N.H.
Potato Field, Grafton County Farm, Route 10
Water was not available and getting a fire apparatus on to a river side meadow was not an option, so a group of resourceful North Haverhill Fire Department members showed some ingenuity and used a John Deere track and a tank of liquid cow manure to put the fire out.
A Ford Ranger pickup truck, owned by the Grafton County Farm caught fire on Thursday, May 12 in a field that had been cut off by flood waters from the Connecticut River. County house of corrections inmates, helping with planting potatoes, were driving the truck when an automatic transmission line ruptured and sprayed fluid on the hot exhaust igniting the fire that consumed the truck.
North Haverhill Assistant Fire Chief Preston Hatch who was next door at his family’s dairy farm, Hatchland Farms, got the tone and saw the fire. Immediately realizing the location and fire apparatus was not going to reach the truck fire, he held the engine in quarters and, instead, summoned his own apparatus from his abutting farm – a huge 300-hp John Deere tractor pulling a 9,600-gallon tanker of liquid manure, ready to spread on the fields. The Hatchland Farms equipment was operated by farm employee Shawn Smas.
Hatch said a couple of extinguishers did little to snuff the full-involved truck, but 1,500-gallon of cow poop did the trick.
“It was about a foot and half, two feet deep in the cab and in the bed when we got done,” Hatch said. “We just backed up and hit the switch, filling it up.”
Although a fire extinguisher was in the truck, and it may have been stopped the fire at the incipient stage, the inmates driving the truck panicked and fled across the field to get away from it. Grafton County House of Correction guards overseeing the farm operations were obliged to pursue the inmate, for fear of escape, rather than staying and battling the fire.
The truck, which was totaled, was removed from the field by a large Hatchland Farms forklift and summarily dumped near the county buildings up the riverbanks from the field.