Have you ever considered what you would do if you had a barn fire? How would you protect your animals and all the other assets you have in your barn? What could you have done to prevent it? The thought of a fire is very scary. Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk that there could be a fire in your barn, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and be more prepared.
Tips for reducing the risk of a barn fire
Contact your local fire department to have them do a “checkup” of your barn and offer more recommendations for your individual situation. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps in reducing your chances of having a barn fire.
- No smoking! Bedding and hay can easily be ignited by a person smoking in or around the barn. Enforce a strict no smoking policy in your barn. Post signs inside and outside your barn.
- Place a fire extinguisher next to each exit, utility box and at roughly 30-40-foot intervals in your barn. Inspect and recharge each extinguisher every year, and use a ABC (general purpose) extinguisher.
- Clean off cobwebs and pick up loose bailer twine. By making sure your barn is clutter-free, you are helping eliminate ways for fire to spread.
- Electrical devices need to be professionally installed and encased in conduit. Pay attention during winter months to water tank heaters and heated buckets—they continue to generate heat even if there is no water present, which can cause the plastic to melt and a fire to ignite bedding and hay. If you are using electrical cords, make sure that they are professional grade, inspected often and are not overloaded. Keep lights caged and only use lights that are designed for barn use.
- If possible, keep hay and bedding stored away from a barn housing animals. If you only have one barn, like many of us, make sure hay has properly cured before storing it in the barn. Check the internal temperature of curing hay by poking a thermometer into the middle of the bale. If the temperature reaches 150 degrees, the hay should be monitored. If it reaches 175 degrees, contact the fire department.
- Keep tractors, fuel, other petroleum products and machinery away from the barn. Clear any grass, hay, leaves or other combustible materials from equipment before storage.
Tips for being prepared in case there is a barn fire
Mentally prepare yourself so that you can act calmly and safely in the case of a fire. Remember that human safety is the top priority—ensure your own safety and the safety of others before taking care of animals. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps for preparing yourself and being ready if a fire does occur in your barn.
- Identify and designate a safe place for your animals to go if you can get them out of the barn safely. This location should be away from the fire and allows fire crews enough room to do their jobs.
- Handling equipment such as halters, leads, etc. should be quickly accessible. Consider the materials these items are made of. Remember that plastic and nylon will melt in heat.
- Talk about the plan with members of your family and any employees you might have so they can also be prepared in an emergency.
- Mark gates, pens or stalls with reflective tape or glow-in-the dark paint. This will make it easier to see where you are going in the dark.
- If you are removing animals, start closest to the exit first and handle animals one at a time or by groups if they are herd animals. Always maintain control of the animals to help reduce their stress, which can prevent other injury risks.
If there is a fire, call 911 and get people out of the barn. Only get animals out if you can do so without risking human safety. Follow the directions from the fire department or 911 dispatcher.
No one ever wants to think about the risk of a fire, but it is best to be fully prepared so that you can react fast and appropriately.