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Dusty engines blamed in tractor fires at Martinsburg farm

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MARTINSBURG — Three tractors at a large Lewis County farm caught fire within about an eight-hour period last weekend, but fire investigators found no indication of foul play.

County fire and sheriff’s department investigators checked out two of the three burned tractors at Demko Farms off Route 26 in the town of Martinsburg and said they believe both fires were caused by spontaneous combustion because of chaff and dust on the engines, according to Lewis County Fire Coordinator James M. Martin.

“They’re 99 percent sure that’s what it was,” Mr. Martin said. “They don’t see anything suspicious there at all.”

The large dual-wheeled tractors were being used to pack down piles of hay and silage and push them into storage containers, he said.

Workers at the farm, the second largest in the county, indicated they typically have to clear the tractor engines of dust with an air compressor every two to three hours to avoid overheating, Mr. Martin said.

“They farm it 24-7 there,” he said.

While it was highly unusual for three tractor fires — called in at roughly midnight, 3 and 8 a.m. Sunday — to occur in the same day, let alone at the same place, the evidence suggests that dust was the prime culprit, Mr. Martin said.

“It’s just one of those things, I guess,” he said.

Mr. Martin said Wednesday that he hadn’t heard from any insurance companies concerning the incidents but suggested they may conduct their own investigation.

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