Fire Prevention & Safety for Your Barn
By Kathy Smith
October 8, 2016, marked the 145th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which according to popular legend broke out after Catherine O’Leary’s infamous milking cow kicked over a lantern in the barn on the night of October 8, 1871. The resulting barn fire, aided by the wind, destroyed three square miles of the City of Chicago, killing more than 250 people, destroying 18,000 buildings, and leaving 100,000 people – a third of the city’s population – homeless before it was finally brought under control the next day.
The Great Chicago Fire changed the way public officials and firefighters viewed fire safety. Now, every October in communities throughout North America, Fire Prevention Week educates the public about the importance of fire prevention and safety.
There is no such thing as a fireproof barn. Fires can grow quickly and without warning, but fortunately we don’t have to wait for a tragedy to motivate us to start fireproofing our barns. Let this inspire you to take a look at the fire prevention and safety measures you can implement in and around the barn. The planning and preparation you do now will reduce the likelihood of a barn fire and help save lives should a fire occur.
- Incorporate fire prevention measures into your regular barn management practices. Contact your local fire department for fire safety information, or ask them to inspect your barn to suggest ways to reduce risks and identify hazards.
- Declare a Fire Prevention Day at your barn and invite friends, family, and boarders to help out by giving your barn a good cleaning inside and out. Clean up everything that isn’t absolutely necessary and could provide fuel for a fire in and around your barn, and separate flammable materials from sources of heat and fire, or remove them from the area altogether.
- According to Steve Smith, Chief of the City of Victoria Fire Prevention Division, every barn should have at least two five-pound fire extinguishers, one at each end of the barn. Larger barns may require several extinguishers – you should not have to travel more than 75 feet to reach one – and multi-storey barns should have at least one extinguisher on each level (i.e. one on the main floor and one in the loft). All fire extinguishers should have a minimum rating of 2A-10BC, and all barn employees and boarders should be trained how to use them.
- Smith also recommends installing smoke detectors in the barn that will trigger alarms inside and outside the barn, as well as in your house so that you will be alerted to a barn fire even when you’re out of hearing range of the barn alarms.
- Make sure your property is accessible. Your farm name should be prominently displayed at the farm’s entrance and directions to your farm should be posted beside the telephone so emergency responders can be given clear instructions.
- Develop a fire safety plan and post emergency evacuation procedures, location of fire extinguishers, and emergency phone numbers in high visibility areas and beside the barn phone.
- Do some emergency preparedness training with your horses to get them used to being handled during an evacuation. Wear a large coat and hat with a bulky backpack to resemble a firefighter wearing breathing apparatus. Get your horses accustomed to being approached at night with a flashlight and to being led while blindfolded.
Main article photo: Fotos_von_Carlos/Flickr
This article originally appeared in the Hoofbeat E-Newsletter.