Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Horse Barn Fire Safety

Tragedy struck early Sunday morning in Verndale, MN, a town not too far from us. Aided by strong winds, fire swept through the barn at R&J Horse Sales and 40 horses perished. Thankfully no humans were hurt, but this is still a terrible tragedy for all the horse owners who lost their animals, as well as for the Sundbys, who own R&J Horse Sales.

A barn fire is not something that I worry too much about here at home as my horses are kept outside with a run-in shed for shelter. But my mare is stabled at Benvelle Equestrian Center - brought into the barn each night - and I think how much I would miss her if she were caught up in a fire.

What can be done to prevent something like this happening to your horse? What are a few basic fire safety precautions to take at your barn?

The leading cause of barn fires is actually electrical in nature – things such as frayed wiring, shorts and overloaded circuits.

An electrical checklist for your barn:
  • Have a licensed electrician install lightening rods and perform all electrical work.
  • All electrical wiring should be enclosed ina metal conduit.
  • Electrical boxes should be weather proof; switches should be moisture and dust proof.
  • If you must use extension cords, use industrial-grade models.
  • The electrical system should be set up so that when power is turned off in the barn, the water source stays on.

Keep your barn and surrounding areas clean:

  • Remove trash and debris inside and out – besides being neater and cleaner, this removes potential fuel for a fire.
  • Cleaning rags and towels soaked with petroleum-based tack cleaning products should never be left in a pile.
  • Paint cans and flammable liquids should be kept in a building separate from the barn in safe containers.
  • Keep cobwebs under control. They are a fast conduit for flames and can drop and spread a fire.
  • Keep heater and fans dust-free - buildup of dust can combust.

Other important fire precaution suggestions:

  • Strictly enforce no smoking in the barn or use of an open flame for any reason.
  • Have a water source available outside the barn with a hose easily accessible.
  • Install multiple fire extinguishers – at each entrance, the tack room, and the feed room – and check them annually.
  • Keep your horse's halter with lead rope attached on the outside of the stall for quick access during a fire or other emergency.
  • Store hay, straw and bedding in a building away from the barn.
  • Park tractors and farm equipment away from hay, straw or shavings. A hot engine can cause these to ignite.

Of course, even when a horse barn takes all these precautions, accidents can still happen - as in the case of R&J Horse Sales - but this list of easy fire safety tips will definitely keep the risk at a much lower percentage.

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