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Bales still smoldering; owners believe cause of fire was arson

Thousands of straw bales are still smoldering after catching fire Tuesday night at U Pick Red Barn in Idaho Falls.

More than 1,000 straw bales went up in flames. Nobody was hurt, but people could still smell it throughout the day Wednesday.

“It amazed me how quick that thing caught fire,” said owner Preston Walker. “I never in a million years thought it could catch fire that quickly.”

Walker saw his family’s straw maze engulfed in just minutes — minutes after closing the maze, looking for stragglers and going to bed.

“I actually jumped in my truck, didn’t have time to put pants on, and ran out there,” said Walker. “We started moving everything we could that was up against the maze.”

They couldn’t save a back hoe or the thousands of straw bales. The fire left the Walkers with more than $100,000 in damage.

“I have no doubt that somebody lit it on fire. There was no other way it could catch,” said Walker.

That’s something fire crews are still investigating, but Walker says he’s convinced it was arson.

“Coincidentally, it was lit on fire in the corner that would’ve been the best option, with the way the winds were last night, to have everything spread as quickly as possible,” said Walker.

In the meantime, U Pick Red Barn is still open to the public. The barn, pumpkin patches and corn fields were untouched. Even today, people were still picking pumpkins.

“Nothing stops me,” said Barbara Hanoski, a customer. “With all of that smoke and everything, it just goes on.”

The Walkers said they’re hoping to move on too, but first they just want to know what exactly happened.

They’re offering a $500 reward for anyone with information leading to the cause.

They’re asking people contact the barn at (208) 523-7107 or 390-4101.

Fire crews said they expect the straw bales to continue to burn for the next two to three days.

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