July 8, 2015

Ten Tips for Summer Barn Fire Safety

As the summer heat dries out our vegetation and the Oklahoma summer winds pick up speed, it's time to review fire safety once again. Many of you know that we lost our goat barn in a fire three years ago. Ever since then I've been even more conscious of fire safety than I had been before, and my husband will tell you I was already obsessive before the fire.

June was National Safety Month, so I'm a bit late, but fire safety is important no matter what month it is.

According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), barn fires are more common during the winter and summer months. Winter fires are often the result of heating equipment, but there are many common causes of summer barn fires including spontaneous combustion of newly-baled hay and lightning strikes.

Summer is a good time to check your list of fire safety precautions. Inspect your barn for the following problems:

1. No Smoking Allowed - hay, straw and dried-out manure are all flammable. Hang a No Smoking sign in your barn to let visitors know they shouldn't light up. No exceptions!

2. Don't allow debris to pile up in or around your barn. Clean up old wood and piles of dead brush and trash.

3. Store hay, straw and bedding in another building, not in your livestock barn.

4. Inspect the electrical wiring for worn spots or damage from rodents. Electrical wiring should be run through conduit for the highest level of safety. (By the way, is your barn insulated? If so, you might check to see if asbestos is present in the insulation. Asbestos was used for decades and can still be found in homes, schools, commercial and other buildings built prior to 1980. Exposure to asbestos can cause devastating diseases including mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. You can learn more about mesothelioma here.)

5. Fans are one of the leading causes of summer barn fires. House fans are not made to withstand the dust in a barn; dust can clog up the motor and cause a fire. Use a fan made for use in a barn (affiliate link) available at farm supply stores and at Amazon.

6. Cobwebs and dust are flammable and allow flames to spread rapidly from one end of the barn to another. Use an old broom to keep your beams and walls cobweb-free.

7. Check light bulbs in your barn. Don't allow them to collect dust and dirt. Keep light switches and outlets free of dust.

8. Keep a fire extinguisher in the barn and know how to use it.

9. Don't store flammables in the barn. Gasoline and gas-powered machinery are obvious, but how about those bottles of fly spray, cleaning solutions and other flammable materials? Find another place to store them.

10. Create a defensible space around your barn to slow down or stop the spread of fire. Trim tree branches so that they are at least ten feet from the roof and keep grass and brush trimmed within a thirty-foot perimeter of your structure.

While you're checking your fire safety list in the barn, apply these tips to your home as well! You probably don't store hay in your house, but the rest of these tips apply to homes and other structures too.

Do you have a fire safety policy? Please share with us in the comments below.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. The dust is a real biggy to take care of - it's certainly dangerous as Hell. Every year over here a couple of grain silos go up because somehow the airborne dust has ignited. We're certainly familiar with fires here in Victoria, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for you there.

  2. Thank you, Stephen. Isn't it amazing that something so innocuous as dust can be so dangerous?

  3. I don't have a barn, but my home backs up to a Ponderosa pine forest in Arizona and wildfires are always an issue. We had a fire assessment a few years ago and were made aware of a bunch of things that would protect our home in the event of a forest fire. Thanks for sharing this and thanks for linking up at the Weekend Blog Hop at My Flagstaff Home!


  4. Sometimes it takes another pair of eyes, doesn't it, Jennifer? That assessment might save your house someday.

  5. We're about to move to 20 acres and will have a full fledged barn for the first time in our homesteading careers. I really appreciate all this advice as I probably wouldn't have thought about it on my own. Thanks for sharing at From the Farm today!

  6. Tessa, that barn will be a blessing to you!

  7. Wow! That's a lot to remember! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us on The Maple Hill Hop this week.

  8. This is a great post and a very timely reminder. We have fire issues here where we live and we try and keep all our lawn green to help prevent our house being burnt. Thank you for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    1. That's an important part of defensible space, Terri. Keeping the grass green and short is an excellent tactic.

  9. Always good things to remember! Thanks for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop. I can't wait to see what you share this week!

  10. I stumbled across your blog just now, I'm super glad I did. I hope you don't mind if I share my (recent) barn fire story.

    Early yesterday (approximately 6:30) we were awoken to loud police sirens and told our barn was on fire. Inside were many barn cats, some chickens (who aren't supposed to roost in there!), 5 sows (2 of them with babies) and a milk house addition that housed our baby chicks. We lost the entire dairy barn and cow free stall shed connected to it, along with the lean-to area which housed one of the Momma pigs and her 8 babies. That was likely were the fire started...by a heat lamp. Because it was full of straw bedding and bales to use as wind blockers (Momma pig unexpectedly had her babies in there so we had to improvise). It then spread to the hay mow above and it was over. The fire had already been going for a awhile when we were asleep. We lost Momma and her 8 little ones. Shockingly the other 4 pigs made it out alive, along with the cats...they were in there for a long time and the firemen told us early on that "no one survived". Frankly I still can't believe it. I'm still extremely devastated over the loss of the sow. My family are first time pig farmers and we bought these girls only a couple months ago. Even though I only knew her for a couple months I still loved her.

    The surviving mother of 4 piglets, along with the 3 other gals had to be put in a outdoor shed thats not completely enclosed. Luckily we have tons of stacks of large straw bales we used to build her a den. We were debating letting the piglets stay with her and nurse naturally but run the risk of freezing vs. hand rearing them indoors where its warm. Decided to bite the bullet and put them outside with her and try to make it as cozy as possible. They survived the night. :) Now onto your blog post! Though it is fairly snuggley inside her nest, no drafts can be felt. I still worry about them getting too cold once the temperature drops more. I had been searching for some premade piglet jackets but they don't seem very common. I thought other jackets like ones for kids and lambs would be too large on them. I even debated buying a dog jacket. The trouble with that is pigs are built very uniquely...long in the body, thick neck, short legs. But! Your goat coat post got me thinking about using a long sleeve shirt sleeve for a jacket. :) I made a prototype tonight. So hopefully it works.

    So I just wanted to say I really appreciated your blog post :) Thank you

    (Sorry for the long block of text~!)

  11. D, I'm very sorry to hear about your fire and the loss of one of your sows and her piglets. I know you are still in shock right now. A barn fire is such a tragedy, especially when we lose animals.

    I hope your "piglet coat" fits and will work out. Hopefully the babies will snuggle with their mom and be warm enough. I think they'll be ok as long as you can keep the drafts under control, and it sounds like you've done an admirable job of that.


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