Greg Scannell, CSP •

Cold Weather Brings a Hot Issue - Barn Fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more than 1,200 barn fires, most of them preventable, occurring each year in the United States and result in nearly $33 million dollars in property damage.

Barn Fires are a very serious emergency that all barn help as well as boarders should be prepared to deal with. With flammables like straw and wood being ubiquitous in a barn, fires can start and spread rapidly in a blink of an eye. Quick and decisive action is a must to ensure the safety of both humans and horses. This article will discuss not only the fire hazards present in the equestrian industry, but outline an effect plan to protect your barn.

Although this has not been a traditional ‘Midwest’ winter, we still find heating our barns and arenas as a necessity. According to an study performed by Equine Risk Management Group, leading causes of barn fires were identified:

Ensuring proper fire prevention procedures are in place not only in the months when heating the barn is required, but as an ongoing effort to prevent these occurrences from inhibiting your barn. A Barn Fire Safety Emergency Plan is the first step to preventing a fire. The Emergency Plan should also focus on the precautions that need to be made to prevent a fire, as well as what to do when fire strikes.

Emergency Plans Should Include

  • An evacuation plan which identifies established meeting sites for both humans and horses
  • Contact information for Emergency Response- keep information current and posted in several areas of the barn
  • Staging area for fire department-kept clear at all times
  • Alternative housing arrangements for animals

In addition, utilizing a checklist to ensure compliance through out the year is essential for maintaining a safe barn. Your checklist should address the following:

Barn Safety Inspection Procedures

  • Are fire extinguishers available, easily located and properly maintained? (PROTECT FROM FREEZING).
  • Have aisles and doorways been cleared of all obstructions?
  • Is there good housekeeping maintained throughout the barn and storage areas?
  • Do you have an outside water source with a hose intact or readily available for use?
  • Are flammables contained securely ?
  • Does each horse have a halter and lead line available on its stall door at all times?
  • Is all equipment (electrical cords, fans, etc.) maintained free of damage and in good working order?
  • Are safe storage practices in place for equipment, feed and tools?
  • Is the barn environment maintained free of cobwebs to avoid a fire hazard?

Providing a safe and healthy work place is vital for animals as well as family, friends, and employees. Developing and implementing an emergency response plan and fire prevention program will help ensure the safety and well being for all of those involved. The importance of preventative safety remains paramount. Daily inspections of the environment your horses live in goes a long way in preventing emergencies. We at Safety Check Inc. are trained in hazard analysis and accident prevention. For an equine safety consultation or barn walkthrough, please feel free to contact us at (815) 475-9991.

Works Cited
  • Equine Risk Management Group (ERMG) Document No. 2011 - 006
  • U.S. Structure Fires in Barns, 10/08 NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division, Quincy, MA
  • NFIRS 5.0 and National Fire Protection Association ( NFPA) Survey

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