NORTH MANKATO — A burnt hay wagon will be keeping its place along Lookout Drive, with its scorched metal roof and charred wooden floor, until its owner finds out how it caught on fire.
Tom Depuydt suspects the dry hay inside his wagon was ignited by two kids he saw in the area around the time of the July 10 fire. He built the wagon about 10 years ago and used it to sell hay bales on the honor system.
The North Mankato firefighter in charge of the crew who put the fire out said he’s not convinced arson was involved. Assistant Fire Chief Rich Inman also said arson wasn’t investigated at the time of the fire because Depuydt didn’t mention anything about seeing boys in the area at the time.
Depuydt’s wagon is at the end of his driveway at 1562 Lookout Drive. He has a welding shop next to his house and was working on a lawn mower when Tim Stromer drove in to tell him a hay bail was on fire.
Stromer happened to be driving past on Lookout Drive when he saw the small fire on one bale in the front of the wagon. By the time Depuydt was warned and came out with a pitch fork, the fire had spread.
“It was too gone by that point,” Stromer said this week.
The two men did what they could to break the fire apart until the firefighters arrived. Depuydt also didn’t mention seeing any kids during the stressful situation, Stromer said.
Spontaneous combustion has been considered as one of many possibilities for how the fire started. After thinking about that and the fact that spontaneous combustion usually requires moisture, Depuydt said he started thinking more about the kids he saw around the wagon. He said he was facing the wagon while he was working on the lawn mower.