Hay Kingdom hit with air quality fine over recent fires

Air quality officials hit the Hay Kingdom with a notice of violation over several large fires at the business over the last few weeks.
Fire officials with the Vacaville Fire Protection District (left) and Winters Fire Department (right) coordinate as hay burns at the Hay Kingdom on March 28, 2019. Photo by Matthew Keys/Winters Express
Fire officials with the Vacaville Fire Protection District (left) and Winters Fire Department (right) coordinate as hay burns at the Hay Kingdom on March 28, 2019. Photo by Matthew Keys/Winters Express

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several hay fires at the business in late March and early April that occurred during rain storms. Officials said the fires were generated by spontaneous combustion after moisture likely entered the middle of the haystacks, which generated a significant amount of gas and heat that ultimately led to ignition. A spokesperson for the air quality district said notices of violation were issued to the Hay Kingdom for creating public nuisances and “open burning in a manner prohibited by district rules.” The business was advised by the air quality district to implement certain measures “to prevent future fires and ensure compliance with district rules,” the spokesperson said. The amount of the fine will ultimately be determined through mutual settlement processes between the air quality district and the Hay Kingdom. Earlier, a county official said the initial fine was over $300,000. In addition to the fine, Echiburu said county officials have ordered the Hay Kingdom to stop receiving shipments of hay until the business is brought into compliance with certain local and county regulations. “Our main focus here is public safety,” Echiburu said. “We are making sure, working with them to the greatest extent possible so we achieve compliance.” In a phone call with the Express on Monday, Hay Kingdom spokesperson Larry Lu said he was not sure if county officials had the authority to order his business to stop accepting shipments of hay, but said the business had done so voluntarily as part of a process where both sides are trying to work toward a satisfactory solution. That satisfactory solution includes applying for a use permit with the county to operate the business — something Lu said he wasn’t sure he needed because the Hay Kingdom falls within a county zone that allows for agriculture manufacturing, but one he said the business would ultimately get in order to appease county officials. “We need to do a lot, and we have been doing a lot, to make this place safe,” Lu said. “I feel sorry that the fire disturbed the lives of our neighbors, especially the people in Winters.” Lu said his business lost an estimated 1,900 pounds of hay that was destined for export to foreign countries. Since the fires, Lu said the Hay Kingdom had made a number of changes regarding how hay is stored at the business, including spreading out the hay and allowing air inside the middle of bales to cool them down.]]>

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