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DALTON — A novel endorsement of the Biden/Harris presidential ticket went up in flames Friday night in Dalton, halting traffic on Route 9 and prompting an investigation into whether the fire was deliberately set.

A little after 6:30 p.m., a stack of 19 oversized and wrapped hay bales bearing the Democratic Party candidates’ names caught fire, sending smoke across the busy state road near Holiday Brook Farm.

Dicken Crane, the farm’s owner, said Dalton police and fire officials were at the farm Friday night, investigating.

Crane said he was running a tractor in a nearby field, baling hay. On one pass, the massive bales with the political message — stacked three high in places — were fine.

“When I turned around again, it was ablaze,” he said.

A 911 call at 6:40 p.m. summoned local firefighters.

Crane said that just minutes before, at 6:32 p.m., a farm employee noticed that a substance that resembled motor oil had been spread across a portion of the bales.

It remains unclear what ignited the fire, which consumed portions of the bales, each one worth $65.

“The assumption is that this was very deliberate,” Crane said. “But it’s hard to explain. Six minutes later it was on fire, but there was nobody there.”

Once the fire was extinguished, Crane inspected the debris and found that hay still inside the bales was cool to the touch. “It was not spontaneous combustion,” he said, a reference to fires that start naturally, including in silage.

The bales with the message were standing on the south side of Route 9 across from Holiday Brook Farm, in a field near Cleveland Road.

Each of the bales weighs roughly 1,000 pounds. They contained silage for animal feed. The farm produces about 550 bales a year and needs to buy another 100 to meet its needs. Crane said the bales that burned were purchased.

Crane said the bales had been painted with the candidates’ names on Thursday. The top row read “USA,” with each letter on a different bale. The middle row sported U.S. flags and Joe Biden’s last name. The bottom row said “Vote,” "Harris” —a reference to Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate — and the date, “2020.”

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.


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