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Preventing Barn Fires

As the weather heats up and the conditions get dry, learn how to prevent a fire in your barn. Don?t accept any load of hay that is not completely cured because heat is generated during the curing process and a smoldering hay bale could catch fire.

Don?t overlook a potential fire hazard in your barn. Take the time to learn about a few common fire hazards that you might miss in your day-to-day barn chores.


Box Fans

Did you know that many barn fires start by trying to cool down animals in the barn? The No. 1 cause of barn fires in the summer is inexpensive box fans that are meant only to be used in your house. Because the motors are not sealed, dust and dirt get into the motors, making them heat up and catch fire, melting the plastic housing.

Also, the cords on these box fans are not durable enough for barn use. Livestock can chew on the cord, and out it goes. Motors in agricultural or industrial-level fans are sealed and are much less likely to catch fire.

Good Housekeeping

Most barn fires are preventable. Since many common barn items are flammable, the best way to prevent a barn fire is good housekeeping. Keep hay swept up, and aisles and doors clear. Even the smallest things can trigger a barn fire--a pile of oily rags lying on the floor that somebody didn't throw out, or cobwebs that can spread a fire from one end of a barn to another in seconds.


Don?t accept any load of hay that is not completely cured, because heat is generated during the curing process. Clover and alfalfa hay seem to be particularly prone to incomplete curing, and first-cutting alfalfa is often subject to this problem.

In a stack of uncured hay, two fire propagation requirements?fuel and heat?are at work. The only thing lacking in sufficient quantity is oxygen. The hay might smolder unnoticed for quite some time before the edge of the stack is reached. When that happens, and oxygen is suddenly available in abundance, you have a full-blown fire on your hands.

The same process might occur with damp grain, sawdust or wood shavings, too, and in these situations, an explosion could result, due to the greater amount of exposed surfaces in the material. The presence of chemical reactions leading to spontaneous heating and ignition can be detected by a ?sooty? odor, and sometimes, mild eye irritation when in the immediate vicinity of the hay stack. If you have the slightest suspicion that spontaneous heating is occurring, call your fire department.

In most cases, a fire department cannot arrive in time if your barn catches fire, so prevention is key. Horses in particular have a fragile respiratory system; a minute or two may be all it takes for them to die of smoke inhalation.

Use the list below to check your barn, and learn more about fire safety at the AQHA America's Horse Daily and Laurie Loveman's

_____ Are aisleways and doorways clear of debris or ?stored? objects?

_____ Are cobwebs removed weekly, if not more often?

_____ Are all electric motors on both fixed and portable appliances completely sealed?

_____ Have all lightweight (lamp-type) extension cords been removed?

_____ If extension cords are in use (temporarily only) are they industrial or heavy-duty rated?

_____ Are any electrical cords hanging from or supported by nails?

_____ Is all permanent electrical wiring in conduit?

_____ Are cages installed over all light bulbs?

_____ Is there a master electric power switch on the outside of the barn?

_____ Is there a frost-proof water hydrant at or near the entrance to the barn?

_____ Is there a water hose long enough to reach the opposite end of the barn?

_____ Is hay stored stored in a shed or in another building at least 100 feet from the barn?

_____ Is hay dry and well-cured? Is hay in a waterproof area?

_____ Is stall bedding stored in an area away from the animals?

_____ Is used stall bedding (manure pile) kept in an area away from the barn?

_____ Have cleaning cloths contaminated with any petroleum product been properly disposed of?

_____ Is a sign with fire department information posted by the telephone?

_____ Is an emergency animal escape plan displayed?

_____ If you have a ?runway? exit to a pasture, have all animals been trained to use it?

_____ Can fire apparatus reach the barn? (Check road surface, gate and curbs)

_____ Have you invited your fire department to visit your property for purposes of making a pre-plan?