Preventing barn fires | Living the Country Life

Preventing barn fires

There may be hazards that are just one spark away from tragedy
Photo courtesy of Penn State University

Several years ago some friends of ours lost their barn in a huge fire. Everything was destroyed, even a couple of beloved horses.

Ironically, many fires start by trying to cool the animals down. Laurie Loveman is a barn safety consultant, and says the number one cause of barn fires in the summer is inexpensive box fans that are only meant to be used in your house.

"Extremely dangerous in barns. Because the motors are not sealed, and dust and dirt get into the motors, make them seize up and heat up, and then they catch fire, melt the whole plastic housing, and your barn is gone," says Loveman. "Not only that, but nobody tells agricultural people that they need to have an agricultural or industrial-level fan."

The motors on these kinds of fans are sealed and are much less likely to catch fire.

Another problem with a cheap box fan is that the cord isn't heavy enough. A horse could chomp on it and out it goes.  

Loveman says most barn fires are preventable. The best solution is good housekeeping, because everything in a barn is so flammable.

"Keeping hay swept up, keeping aisles clear, doorways clear. The smallest thing can be just a tragedy waiting – a pile of oily rags sitting there heating up, that somebody just didn't spread them out to dry, or throw them out," says Loveman. "Even having cobwebs. That's why housekeeping's important. Cobwebs can spread a fire from one end of a barn to another in seconds."

If your barn catches fire, in most cases there's no way the fire department can get there in time. Even if they arrive within 10-minutes, that's probably too late for horses. Their respiratory systems are so fragile, it only takes a minute or two for them to die of smoke inhalation.

Learn more:

Dry hydrants can help rural residents in case of a fire: For most acreage owners, there isn't a fire hydrant at the end of the lane for the fire department to hook up to. Installing a dry hydrant provides a source of water in case of a fire.

Lightning protection: Here are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of lightning striking your barn and starting a fire.

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