Horizon Structures Presents Series: Fire Safe Farm Practices You May Have Overlooked

Horses watching a black dog from their stall in a large barn.
Horses watching a black dog from their stall in a large barn. ILiyan

Newsdate: Tuesday November 1, 2022, 11:00 am
Location: LEXINGTON, Kentucky

Advice on fire safe practices on the horse farm will often encompass areas of common concern such as moisture content of hay and its storage, provision of evacuation plans and emergency services contact numbers, 24/7 illuminated exit signs, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, removal of cobwebs from light fixtures, no smoking signs, keeping the barn aisle free of obstacles and all wiring protected from vermin and the reach of inquisitive equine noses.

Bales of hay stored in the loft of a wood barn.

Bales of hay stored in the loft of a wood barn

Barns and farm buildings are at higher risk of fire than homes due to the housing of horses and other livestock and the humidity and corrosive gases produced by the presence of animals.
© 2017 by Artazum New window.

While putting all the above advice into action is a must, there are other fire ‘starters’ that are often overlooked. For example, did you know that arcing of batteries in equipment such as tractors is a leading cause of farm fires? Electrical arcs can reach 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Buildings in the farm environment are generally considered at higher risk of fire than a residence. This is because where animals are houses the humidity is generally high and there are certain gases present in the atmosphere such as ammonia and hydrogen sulphate that are corrosive.

When electric current is applied in a barn, either on a piece of equipment or through the electric wiring circuit servicing the building’s needs, they are thus subject to the negative corrosive forces of this environment. Extra safety steps can make all the difference in mitigating the level of fire risk.

Here are a few protocols that you may want to add to your fire prevention list.

  • Remove batteries from equipment when storing it for long periods of time. Especially tractors and larger vehicles. Store batteries in a warm, dry location away from cold temperatures to extend battery life.
  • Empty the hay baler of all hay before putting it away in a building. Hay that sweats up in the baler not only causes paint damage and rust to the machine it also presents a fire hazard.
  • Avoid plugging motorized equipment into outlets in the barn or hay storage area. Some examples: electric charged golf carts, diesel engines that require block heaters to be plugged in for cold winter starts.
  • Unplug small appliances such as coffee makers, microwave ovens and toasters when not in use.
  • Ensure all outlets are fitted with GFCI for additional protection of users of electrical circuits. Install AFCI where recommended by a licensed electrician. Although annoyingly sensitive to electric current fluctuations AFCI installation can readily detect issues in the circuit before a fire ensues.
  • Ensure all breakers and circuits are up to electrical code requirements and breaker box is easily accessible and do not overload circuits. A breaker switching off automatically is your warning that the circuit is not functioning safely.

A quick Electric 101 course:

As mentioned above barns and farm buildings are at higher risk of fire than homes due to the housing of livestock and humidity and corrosive gases produced by the presence of animals. Corrosion of copper and brass in wire can produce a localized heat that may eventually result in spontaneous ignition of surrounding materials.

Corrosion and rodent damage can also leave wires exposed that may cause arcing/ sparking when an electrical current is applied, setting on fire flammable components nearby.

  •  Extension wires that service tank water heaters and electric fences should be protected from damage from snow plowing equipment and heavy tractor tires.
  • Steel fire doors versus wood, should be installed in offices/bathrooms/tack rooms etc.. The addition of automatic door closures can provide another layer of protection for areas at high risk for fire such as feed rooms and barn kitchens/offices. The automatic door closer will help prevent vermin from finding their way inside these spaces and save the need for opening and closing doors by hand when often your hands are full of buckets or tack and equipment.
  • Never use any open flame in a building. This may seem obvious but sadly rocket heaters stuck at the end of an aisleway, or kerosene heaters in feed rooms and the use of generators in the interior of a building are all too often utilized by farm owners resulting in fire.
  • Lightning is more likely to strike a taller building than a diminutive neighbor, and farm structures are often much taller than other buildings on the property. It is a myth that metal buildings are more likely to be struck by lightning than wood buildings, but it is a good idea to seek professional advice regarding grounding rods and lighting protection for tall buildings in exposed locations. Removal of large trees that may be struck by lightning and fall on the roof of a farm building should be considered as an additional preventative measure.

While accidents can happen taking safety precautions seriously is a solution to minimize the risk of fire. Don’t forget to keep your driveway and access to the barn clear of snow and easily accessible for emergency equipment too and your street address well signed at the roadside to ensure your property is easy to locate.

One of your best resources for advice is your local fire department. Invite them over to inspect your premises and offer suggestions for improving your fire safety practices and  perhaps at the same time offer their team a lesson in safe handling of horses, and don’t forget the monetary donation if they are a volunteer unit!

 About Horizon Structures:  One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners.  At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –

Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook.  Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business.  He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com

About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
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Please visit https://nikkialvinsmithstudio.com/ to learn more about her affordable services.

About the Author

Nikki Alvin-Smith

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As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 34 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international Grand Prix level to scores over 72% and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Baroque breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run a private dressage breeding operation and training yard in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York.

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