MANDAN, N.D. — Morton County emergency managers are warning farmers and ranchers about what they say is an alarming number of hay bales that have spontaneously combusted and caught fire.

Just this month about 300 hay bales burned near St. Anthony, another 100 near New Salem and about 10 burned just west of Mandan. The emergency management office says when hay is put into a stack or barn and has more than about 22 percent moisture, it has an increased risk of spontaneous combustion. High moisture hay stacks can have chemical reactions that build heat.

Mandan Rural Fire Department Chief Lynn Gustin says hay bales should be left in the field as long as possible and moisture content and temperature should be checked before stacking.

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