Crime

Dad, kids escape pickup, hay fire near Lake Samish (video)

A firefighter looks over a Ford F-350 pickup that caught fire Friday afternoon, July 17, igniting the bales of hay it was hauling along Old Samish Road.
A firefighter looks over a Ford F-350 pickup that caught fire Friday afternoon, July 17, igniting the bales of hay it was hauling along Old Samish Road. The Bellingham Herald

A father and his two young kids escaped a pickup truck that caught fire hauling 160 bales of hay Friday, July 17, south of Bellingham.

The truck driver, Johnathon Stoner, 31, of Sedro-Woolley, had been delivering the hay for free as a favor for a friend who owns horses north of Lake Samish.

Two of his kids, Patrick, 11, and Raven, 8, were with him in the cab of the ’76 Ford F-350 as he started going up the driveway in the 700 block of Old Samish Road. The tires had a loose a grip on the gravel road, and were spinning without going anywhere.

Stoner hit the brakes but it was “like they totally blew out.” Then as he backed down the driveway smoke started coming from the engine.

“The engine shut itself off,” he said. “I was smelling smoke and breathing in a ton of smoke.”

Stoner roused his sleeping daughter and got out of the truck, then realized he’d left his phone inside. So he dove back in and grabbed it while the flames from the engine grew to about 5 feet tall. Stoner tried using a fire extinguisher he keeps in the truck, but “that didn’t do anything at all,” he said.

Fire overtook the truck about 4:40 p.m. and spread to the hay bales.

The truck originally belonged to his grandfather. When Stoner was a child, he’d been in a car seat in it as his grandfather drove around.

Once the flames hit the gas tank, Stoner said, a giant fireball plumed dozens of feet into the air and singed nearby trees.

No one was hurt, though Stoner said his lungs were “killing” him.

Stoner estimated the lost hay — 40 bales in the truck’s flatbed, another 120 in the trailer — had a value of about $2,000.

“It’s really nice hay, actually,” he said.

South Whatcom and South Lake Whatcom firefighters got the fire under control within minutes but struggled to extinguish the lingering heat buried in the haystack. So the road was expected to stay shut down in both directions for at least two hours.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog and follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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