Preventing and preparing for barn fires

Have you ever thought about how you can prevent a fire in your barn? You should! Get prepared!

Have you ever considered what you would do if you had a barn fire? How would you protect your animals and all of the random “stuff” you have in your barn? What could you have done to prevent it? The thought of a fire is very scary! After a “too close for comfort” experience in my own barn, I began considering these questions and decided to take action to do everything possible to prevent that thought from becoming a reality.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that from 2006 to 2010, there were approximately 830 structure fires per year in barns that were reported to municipal fire departments. These fires were responsible for over $28 million in property damage. The leading causes of barn fires are heating equipment, such as heat lamps, electrical and lighting equipment, and spontaneous combustion or chemical reactions.

This article by Michigan State University Extension will focus on what you can do to prevent a barn fire. Following practical steps can minimize the risk of a fire occurring. It is always a good idea to contact your local fire department and have them do a “checkup” of your barn and receive more recommendations based on your individual situation. “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” by the University of Kentucky has prevention plan suggestions for those raising animals.

  • 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.
  • Fire extinguishers: Place a fire extinguisher next to each exit, each utility box and at roughly 30-40 foot intervals around your barn. Make sure that each year the extinguishers are inspected and recharged. It is recommended to use an ABC (general purpose) extinguisher.
  • Regular cleaning: Clean off those cobwebs and pick up loose bailer twine! By making sure that your barn is clutter free you are helping eliminate ways for fire to spread.
  • Electrical devices: Make sure all electrical devices are professionally installed and are encased in conduit. Pay particular attention during the winter months to water tank heaters and heated buckets! Remember that they continue to heat even if there is no water present, which can cause the plastic to melt and a fire to ignite bedding and/or 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.
  • Hay and bedding: 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 that 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 F, the hay should be monitored. If it reaches 175 F, contact the fire department.
  • Tractors and equipment: Tractors, fuel, other petroleum products and machinery should be kept away from the barn. Make sure to clear any grass, hay, leaves or other combustible materials from equipment before storage.

Now that you have the basics down, look for the next article by MSU Extension which will highlight what to do if there is a fire in your barn.

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