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Members of four area volunteer fire departments responded to a blaze in Cotaco on Friday that destroyed about 25 rolls of hay stacked in a shed.
Daily photo by Ronnie Thomas
Members of four area volunteer fire departments responded to a blaze in Cotaco on Friday that destroyed about 25 rolls of hay stacked in a shed.

Decatur firefighter accidentally starts own blaze

By Ronnie Thomas 340-2438

COTACO — Terry Morris has been into the breach many times during a 20-year career as a firefighter with Decatur Fire and Rescue.

His work on Friday morning's fire at 355 Cotaco-Florette Road was different. It was on his property, and he accidentally started it.

Morris, 43, lost about 25 rolls of hay stacked in a shed. If not for help from passersby and units from the Cotaco, Florette, Somerville and Brindley Mountain volunteer fire departments, it could have been much worse.

Morris said he was burning feed sacks on gravel between two sheds, including the one that held the hay. He said when he left to go to a store on Alabama 36 for fertilizer, the fire had almost burned out.

"It was about six inches in diameter and the wind wasn't blowing," he said. "But I guess I left too soon. My wife called me at the store about 11:30 and told me we had a problem."

Cheryl Morris, who teaches kindergarten at Cotaco Elementary School but was home sick, said her mother-in-law called and told her that smoke was coming from the shed. Carolyn Morris lives nearby, off Alabama 36. She called 911.

"Two vehicles stopped and those people also called 911," Cheryl Morris said. "Then they came and started helping put out grass that crept to the entrance of the other shed. I thanked them, but I didn't know who they were. A woman hugged me and they left."

That structure houses an antique tractor that belonged to Terry Morris' late father, a Datsun 280Z he has owned since he was 16 and was refinishing, a travel camper and other tractors and equipment.

Cheryl Morris said when her husband arrived, he hopped onto a front-end loader and began removing the burning and smoking hay rolls and separating them.

"He drove it into the flames, and I stood there and cried," she said. "I understood that he knew what he was doing, but to see him disappear in the fire and smoke. That's scary."

The roof of the building is metal, supported by wooden 4-by-4-inch posts. The building is open except for the back.

"We managed to contain (the fire) and save those posts," said firefighter Matt Farley of Brindley Mountain. "But some of them are scorched."

Morris said he had hoped to have enough hay for his 80 brood cows to get through the spring.

"All of those rolls are gone," he said. "They were stacked close, on top of each other. They'll all burn up. They generate so much heat, you can't put them out."

Morris said that during the fall he sold some of his hay for other farmers in need. Now, he'll have to search for hay to buy.

"What if I hadn't sold it?" he asked. "Well, it all balances out. It probably would have burned up today."

Morris, who works out of Decatur's Station 8, said he appreciates all the help he got from the communities.

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