A sobering reminder…
We don’t know about you, but where we are it’s getting pretty freaking cold these days. At the barn yesterday Jumper Girl had on a down jacket over top of a down vest. She vaguely resembled a marshmellow. Well, if you were to perhaps find a marshmellow in the manure pit and then roll it around in the hay loft in an attempt to clean it off. But I digress…
The early nights and the cold weather are leading to a lot of lights being left on and space heaters being used. In the past week there have been at least two brutal barn fires, resulting in equine fatalities.
In both of these cases the cause has yet to be definitively determined, but they appear to be accidental. In all likelihood they were caused by faulty wiring or a malfunctioning heater or something similar. And since nobody wants to come to the barn to see something like this…
Barns are filled with flammable stuff. It’s just a fact of life. Bedding, hay and the typically wooden walls that make up the structure are all things that will readily burn if given the opportunity. So do your best not to give them the chance!
Make sure your electrical wiring has rodent proof housing. And check on a regular basis that the housing is living up to its name!
Smoking is bad. In a barn it is very bad. ‘Nuff said.
If you’re using space heaters, or have a barn laundry, don’t leave it unattended. Better yet, unplug everything if you’re not around. It can be a bit of a pain in the you-know-what to do, but many, many fires have been started by a malfunctioning appliance. And rebuilding your barn is a far bigger hassle.
Clean up the cobwebs, especially around light fixtures. It’s not just an aesthetics thing, cobwebs can be the barn equivalent of kindling. And it does look prettier too!
Have all light fixtures and wiring be completely out of the reach of the horses. Consider switching over to CFL bulbs instead of incandescent ones, if you haven’t already. They remain much cooler and lower your electricity bill.
Be mindful of machinery and equipment. I’ve seen a careless stablehand rest a gas leafblower on a hay bale when he finished blowing the aisle. Not smart.
Check your hay on a regular basis for signs of mold and excess heat. You can buy a temperature probe that’s designed specifically for the task, or simply use a metal rod. Drive the rod into a hay bale, let it sit for about 20 minutes. If, when you pull it out, it’s too hot to comfortably hold in your hand, your hay shed is likely on its way to becoming a bonfire. Improperly cured hay can set itself on fire, and it burns fast and hot. Monitoring the hay you have in storage is a great way of preventing that from happening. If possible, store hay, bedding and other flammables in a separate building.
Finally, be prepared for the possibility that despite all your precautions, you may still have a fire. Have a safe place you can evacuate your horses to and a plan for getting them there. This plan should include a few different exit options. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers should be standard equipment and you should know where the nearest major water source is.
Most of it is common sense and we’re sure we’ve missed a few obvious points. So feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! Let’s do everything in our power to make sure our horses don’t end up homeless or worse this winter.