A Hamilton County farmer, who started a fire that may’ve contributed to a multi-vehicle pileup on Highway 20 earlier this month, has been found in violation of Iowa’s Open Burning Rule. Mark Hild of rural Webster City was burning hay bales on the morning of March 5 when the smoke blew across the roadway and — combined with fog — created a blackout situation for motorists. The day after the incident, authorities announced Hild would not be fined in the case because there was no indication he intended to cause a traffic accident and it was unclear how much of a role the smoke played in the pileup.
Now, Barb Lynch with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says they’ve determined Hild was burning other materials the same day at another location. “A couple days after the accident, we got a report that there had been a second fire burning near the area and possibly contained tires,” Lynch said. The burning of tires is prohibited in Iowa and Lynch said they did find evidence of a fire containing the remains of at least four burned tires.
Hild has been issued a Notice of Violation for Unlawful Tire Burning. There is no monetary penalty associated with the notice, but Lynch said a repeated violation of the opening burning rule would likely result in a fine. It’s not clear if the smoke from the tire fire also drifted across the highway. “We did not observe that,” Lych said. “We didn’t find out about the tire fire until days later.”
DNR environmental specialists initially responded to the chain reaction accident because of fuel spills on the highway. Once on the scene, they were made aware of the hay fire. More than 30 vehicles were involved in two pileups on the highway. Around a dozen people were hospitalized, including two people with serious injuries.