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barn fire prevention thread

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  • barn fire prevention thread

    The recent posts about barn fires has got me thinking. I am starting to realize that many people are uneducated about fire prevention and potential fire hazards. Perhaps we could use this thread to talk about potential fire hazards, what to watch out for, and good tips on preventing barn fires.

    Things like cob webs, lack of fire extinguishers, etc. Everything from seemingly simple things to other things most of us wouldn't think about.


  • Original Poster

    #2
    The recent posts about barn fires has got me thinking. I am starting to realize that many people are uneducated about fire prevention and potential fire hazards. Perhaps we could use this thread to talk about potential fire hazards, what to watch out for, and good tips on preventing barn fires.

    Things like cob webs, lack of fire extinguishers, etc. Everything from seemingly simple things to other things most of us wouldn't think about.


    Comment


    • #3
      I don't think cob webs are combustible, but their presence CAN indicate a less clean and well kept (and more dusty) environment.

      I'm wondering about the insurance ramifications of keeping hay in a barn's loft...will an insurance company allow this?

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      • #4
        Where I used to board was an old dairy barn, chock full of old hay on the loft floors (there were 2 hay lofts in the BIG barn). The owners lived on -site and the power to all the barns was shut off after the last barn check, about 12-1am. The old owner would check the 18 stall big barn , the 5 stall shed row, 6 stall lower barn- EVERY night 365 days a year, top off water and maybe hay again. Breakfast was at 6am. We did have fire extinguishers around, nobody smoked, and we did do cobweb patrol . Having control of electricity was alittle piece of mind. And, all the horses were used to being led to the door with a lead rope around the neck, or over the nose .

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm pretty sure cobwebs aren't combustible, but they can trap little bits of combustible material - wood dust, hay, etc. So they are holding lots of dry kindling.

          Comment


          • #6
            I am a member of our local fire department as a firefighter and public educator. Due to my involvement in horses I have a Barn Fire Safety Talk that I present to horse owners, horse clubs, stables, etc. It covers everything from maintenance of the barn & surrounding areas, training horses to be lead out during a fire, fire extinquisher use & placement and ways to make your property more accessible for the fire department in case of an emergency.

            I would suggest that people interested in learning about this information to contact your local Fire Department and ask if there is an existing program or if one can be set up.

            Comment


            • #7
              Educating staff and boarders on what to do if a fire is found. Post the 911 address by the phone, memories fail at the worst times.
              Where the fire extinguishers are, its scary when there is not one to be found, and how to cut the power if needed.
              I speak from experience, I am sad to say.

              There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.

              Standardbred clique
              There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.
              *Standardbred clique

              Comment


              • #8
                A major cause of many fires is the use (or misuse) of extension cords!! When using extension cords around the barn, or even your house, never overload them!!! Yes, they have more then one plug, but that doesn't mean it can safely handle the load that is put on it.

                Make sure you have the correct gauge cord for the type of use/ or appliance that is going to be plugged into it.

                Also make sure that your cords don't get closed in anything and pinched! Make sure your tack trunk lid doesn't come down on the cord and damage it, or close a door or window on it. Damage to the cord can also start a fire!!

                ******this is a public service message from your local 911 dispatcher/firefighter!!*********

                __________________________________________________ __________
                **"You are under arrest for operating your mouth under the influence of ignorance!" MPD Officer Beck
                **"Member of the COTH Law Enforcement clique!"
                **"Member of the Western clique"

                "You are under arrest for operating your mouth under the influence of
                ignorance!" Officer Beck

                Comment


                • #9
                  This is a copy of an article I wrote a couple of years ago, based upon talks that I sometimes give to local equestrian organizations.

                  Barn Electrical Safety
                  An Overview

                  By Thomas Gumbrecht, “The Electric Horseman”
                  Licensed Master Electrician

                  The first thing we do in evaluating the conditions in an existing barn is to have a good look around. We don't need test equipment or tools for this process, just a good pair of eyes wide open. Let's look around.
                  On the ceiling, are there bare bulbs for your horse to break if he rears? Remember that a hot filament falling on dry bedding can and probably will cause a fire. If the fixture is properly enclosed and guarded, have birds built a nest in the guard? Or in the case of open fluorescent fixtures, birds also like to find their way into them and nest around the warmth of the ballast. Has this happened? This can be hazardous as the nesting material dries out and becomes heated to the ignition point by the ballast. If you have unshielded fixtures, cover them. If they are covered with hay or debris or cobwebs, clean them. Four-foot fluorescent fixtures depend on the bulb being within a close distance of a grounded metal reflector or pan in order to complete the electrical circuit between the bulb and ballast. So if your pans or reflectors are missing or dirty, you have a poor circuit and your light level will be lower than it should be for the energy you are consuming. So much of electrical safety is just good housekeeping. More on lighting in a future column.

                  Lets look at the wiring methods: Is the barn wired in the preferred method of PVC conduit and wire, or the less expensive but still safe and serviceable UF cable ("Underground Romex"). Or, are there lamp cords or extension cords nailed up and running everywhere that are obviously not being used for the temporary and portable purpose for which they were designed? If I had a job like that inspected, the violation I would get would read "portable cords used in place of an approved wiring method." Nit picking? Not really. Have we all done this? Yes. Has it caused a problem? Probably not. Not right away, anyway. Therein lies the problem of creating complacency with a potentially dangerous condition. How so? An extension cord is not designed to the standards of building wiring. It is designed for portability and flexibility, usually over a narrow temperature range. Those characteristics that make it ideal for its intended purpose make it much less than ideal as a substitute for permanent wiring. When you throw a cord out on the ground to use for some temporary purpose, you get to do at least a cursory inspection of the condition of the cord before energizing it. When you take that same cord and nail it up to the rafters or snake it above the ceiling it becomes invisible. One of the undesirable characteristics of a portable cord is that over time, and under the effects of extreme temperature conditions, it can and usually will become frayed and cracked, especially if it is somehow moved after a long period of being nailed in one place. Then, of course, a frayed or cracked cord can become an ignition source for the very powerful fuel sources found in an old horse barn. Also, if you are using your 100' cord to power something 20' away, that extra coiled-up cord can act like a transformer coil and create a magnetic field that actually consumes power for no purpose, even if just a small amount. Also, and perhaps most importantly, a common extension cord conductor will be only #16 or #18AWG, good for only 6-10 amps. When using one as a portable cord for a drill or a pump no problem. But when they get tacked up and connected and forgotten about, they become part of the building wiring system, which will be fused for 15 or 20 amps, commonly. So now we inadvertently have created an overfused wire condition. After that cord is there for a while we will think of it as a regular outlet and perhaps add an additional load or two, which can ultimately cause a wire, rated at 6-10 amps to be fused at 15-20 amps. These are the unsafe conditions that creep up on us, we don’t set out to blatantly create an unsafe condition. If you have cords taking the place of permanent wiring, get rid of them.

                  Does the barn have a circuit breaker or fuse panel? Is the cover snugly attached? Remember that critters found in barns like the warmth usually found in electrical enclosures. Are the circuit breakers or fuses of the proper size for the wire they are protecting? A circuit breaker will usually be installed by someone who hopefully understands the relationship of wire size to ampere rating of the circuit breaker. In order for a dangerous condition to occur, someone would have to intentionally install a circuit breaker larger than the size permitted. A fuse, however, stands much more of a chance of being inadvertently replaced with one of a larger size, and therein creating an unsafe condition. Fuse inserts are now available, which, once installed, cannot be removed and will not permit replacement with a fuse of larger ampere rating. Consider them if your barn has fuses and replacement with circuit breakers is not presently feasible. An example of how an unsafe condition develops: a circuit of #12AWG wire is supplying power to a small water heater and a light in the bathroom. No problem there. A grooming vacuum system is purchased and the power unit is installed in a corner of the bathroom and connected to the circuit which, up to now, was loaded within acceptable limits. Turn on the vacuum when the water heater is in its heating cycle and the fuse or circuit breaker blows. Some resourceful soul saves the day by replacing the 20 Amp fuse with a 30 Amp fuse. Will it work? Of course. Will it burn the barn down? No, not right away, anyway. Here comes that false sense of security again. That #12AWG wire is designed to heat up to a level, fully loaded, at which it will not cause deterioration of the insulation on the wires when fused properly at 20 Amps. Increase the fuse size to 30 Amps, however, and you will begin a deterioration process of that insulation, caused by the increased heat allowed to be generated as a result of the additional amperage carried. This deterioration may take years to reach the point of insulation breakdown, but it will eventually happen. And if the fault occurs near a ready fuel source, such as some hay fallen into a wall cavity, or just dry timber, you will get combustion. If you have over-fused circuits, fuse them properly and add another circuit if needed.
                  Some will see this all as nit-picking, but others will benefit from the experience of one whose career has let them witness the unpleasant results that are sometimes wrought by these shortcuts.

                  Hey, it sounds like you are trying to keep higher standards in our barn than in our house! Well, technically, no, the standards are pretty much equal, although the wiring methods used in barns are different from those used in homes. But if I were the one enforcing the code, you bet I would be especially vigilant of animal barn wiring standards. First of all, the environment of a barn is much more hostile to wiring and equipment than a temperature controlled, dust controlled, vermin controlled living space. The wiring in a barn is also regularly perused by 1100-LB inquisitive mammals. Second of all, a human can usually sense and react to the danger signals of a smoke alarm, the smell of smoke or of burning building materials and take appropriate action to protect the occupants. Our animals, however, depend on us for that. And we're not (usually) spending 24 hours a day with them. So we use good safe practices to keep them secure.

                  Knowledge is power. We have the power to make our barns as safe as they can be for our horses, and we don't have to spend a fortune to do it. Just start by practicing good housekeeping and take a good look around your barn as if through an electrician's eyes, through which I hope I have helped you see.
                  In a future column, we will talk about the pro's and con's of the various permanent wiring methods commonly used in barns, and of new safety devices which may take barn safety to a new level.

                  Yours in safe horsekeeping,

                  Tom Gumbrecht

                  Note: My hope is that my 30 years experience in this trade can help you and other horsekeepers maintain our facilities in a way that reflects how much we care for our animals. Please note that electrical codes are interpreted and enforced solely by the local authority having jurisdiction. My interpretations are my opinion.

                  Thomas Gumbrecht
                  Licensed Master Electrician

                  As has been said before, it's only a job if you'd rather be doing something else.
                  HorsePower! www.tcgequine.blogspot.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Between Tom LoriO and shelly there should be enough info for a great and needed COTH article.



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                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Not prevention, but I read from someone on this board, I think, that they invited their local fire dep't to their barn for a demonstration on how to deal with horses in the case of fire. I thought that was a very good idea.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This is a great thread... so I will do my part in bumping it

                        I think there are some insurance companies that have lower rates or will only insureyou if you have your hay stored at least 75 or 100 ft from the barn. Hay is onething that is just waiting to burn.

                        -No smoking. (big fat duh)
                        -store hay in a seperatebuilding
                        -reduce cobwebs
                        -reduce clutter (in the event of a fire stuff isnt in the way)
                        -always always have a halter and lead on every stall door for each horse to be prepared for any emergency!!

                        I know this is OT but please y'all have leg straps on your blankets! My sister lost her horse to a broken neck because his blanket slipped (it had no leg straps!) EVEN ifthey are in the barn... b/c if there is a fire and your horse has to make a quick escape it can be ugly if his blanket slips! (see I can make almost anything related)

                        Oh yeah- don't leave toasters with poptarts in them alon...um... in the barn... (I amost burned down my house when I left poptarts in the toaster alone... fr 2 seconds... I swear)

                        "When life gives you lemons, make margaritas!"

                        http://community.webshots.com/user/sunshinengcsu

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Our club has also held several horse rescue/fire awareness meetings with local fire people. Here are a couple of tips they passed along to us.

                          1. They felt cobwebs ARE combustible and do collect shmutz which will also burn. Added point... don't let "stuff" pile up in tackrooms or corners of the barn.

                          2. Make sure they can find your place AND get in the driveway. Farms (particularly private ones) are often down a long driveway. Is there a clear marking identifying the farm or at least house number at the road edge? Is the opening to the driveway wide enough for a fire truck to make the turn off a narrow road (often with ditches on each side in NJ). Do you have decorative columns at the drive end or a gate that might be closed? Make sure firefighters can get onto the property.

                          3. When we asked the local fire marshall to do this talk the first time, he was particularly observant when traveling around for a week or so before the talk and noticed that there are a lot of LONG barns with openings to the outside only at either end. It could be difficult to get the horses in the middle out in the event of a fire. Think about it.

                          4. From a comment at the first meeting from the audience. Talk to the barn (or yourself) and set up and practice some sort of fire drill. Is there a priority in getting the horses out? Where are they going once out - don't just turn them loose - they can run out onto the road or get in the way of the firefighters. This person went to school at U VT who holds regular firedrills at their barns.

                          Be safe out there.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Don't just post the 911 number near the phone. Also post the street address of the barn and directions to the barn if appropriate. I'm much more likely to remember 911 than I am to know the street address and nearest cross roads of the barn.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That is what I am I meant, the 911 street number. Every address here has a number posted at the road for emergency vehicles, how many people can remember the address in an emergency. Having it posted outside the barn as well, is handy when you have to be outside the barn for safety.

                              There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.

                              Standardbred clique
                              There is just as much horse sense as ever, but the horses have most of it.
                              *Standardbred clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                There is also a non-combustible paint that you can buy to paint the inside and outside of the barn. When exposed to flame, the paint produces a water vapor.

                                If anyone is interested, I'll find out the details on where to buy it.

                                "I have observed in women of her type a tendency to regard all athletics as inferior forms of fox-hunting”- Evelyn Waugh

                                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                -Rudyard Kipling

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Build a concrete block barn instead of post and beam.

                                  Have concrete/asphalt aisles and stall floors, cuts down on dust.

                                  Keep aisles clear.

                                  Practive evacutating the barn blindfolded (you, not the horses) in the pitch black dark. This simulates what you will be able to see during a night fire.
                                  Man plans. God laughs.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by LoriO:
                                    A major cause of many fires is the use (or misuse) of extension cords!! When using extension cords around the barn, or even your house, never overload them!!! Yes, they have more then one plug, but that doesn't mean it can safely handle the load that is put on it.

                                    Make sure you have the correct gauge cord for the type of use/ or appliance that is going to be plugged into it.

                                    Also make sure that your cords don't get closed in anything and pinched! Make sure your tack trunk lid doesn't come down on the cord and damage it, or close a door or window on it. Damage to the cord can also start a fire!!

                                    ******this is a public service message from your local 911 dispatcher/firefighter!!*********


                                    Very true I lost my barn on March 30th of this year due to an extension cord that was not mine.
                                    Luckily the horses were all outside and everyone got out but watching the barn and my apt burn to the ground was not fun especially since I was very safety conscious.

                                    __________________________________________________ __________
                                    **"You are under arrest for operating your mouth under the influence of ignorance!" MPD Officer Beck
                                    **"Member of the COTH Law Enforcement clique!"
                                    **"Member of the Western clique"

                                    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
                                    http://community.webshots.com/user/seven7109

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Tom Gumbrect - I hope you are still reading so you can answer my questions. You mention putting wiring in PVC. This puzzles me as I though wiring in a barn should be in metal conduit. The barn where our horses are has wiring in metal conduit. Is there some reason PVC is preferable over metal? It would seem to me that PVC would be too easily broken/crushed by a hoof or even strong jaws & teeth.

                                      How can underground conduit be safe? It is my understanding that the insulation is subject to being chewed by squirrels, rats, etc. & thus this presents a big danger of fire.

                                      You don't even mention GFI outlets which I would think would help prevent fires as well as shocks. The barn where our horses are has all GFI outlets (except the outlet in the ceiling for the electric fence charger).

                                      Also, all the outlets & switches have covers ("wet area application") & I would think this would be a good thing for any barn. This barn was wired less than 3 years ago by a licensed electrician who is also a farmer, but I would be interested in your comments as to whether there is a better way to do things.

                                      Yes, he used circuit breakers, of course.

                                      www.rougelandfarm.com Home of TB stallion Alae Rouge, sire of our filly Rose, ribbon-winner on the line at Dressage at Devon.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I forgot about manure piles! At a barn I used to work at we had the fire dept out 2x in one HOT summer to put out our manure pile... it wasn't exactly on FIRE... but smoldering (alot) nonetheless The manure pile was very large to say the least and it resided on top of a nice pile of logs. poor management IMO.

                                        "When life gives you lemons, make margaritas!"

                                        http://community.webshots.com/user/sunshinengcsu

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