Barn and Stable fires

Generally we think about fire safety in terms of protecting people but what about animals?

Horses are especially at risk when housed in a barn or stable block. Everyone who works in a stable should be made aware of fire safety and prevention.

So what are the risks?

Cigarette smoking is an obvious risk as a cigarette carelessly discarded or accidentally dropped into dry bedding and hay can soon start a fire.

Dirty rags which have been used for cleaning should be regularly cleaned, or safely disposed of as a build up of oils and cleaning chemicals could make them flammable and even spontaneously combust over time. Linseed oil is particularly vulnerable so store rags and wipes in air tight containers or place in water after use.

Damp hay has also been known to spontaneously combust particularly if stored in large stacks as at the heart of the stack heat is generated much the same as in a compost heap.

Electrical equipment should be regularly PAT tested and not left operating unattended. Turn off at the sockets when not in use. Do not trail extension wires across stable floors where they can be damaged by horse and foot traffic.

Electrical cables should be checked regularly for signs of damage such as rodent bites.

Practical fire prevention

Good housekeeping is essential from both a fire prevention and health and safety standpoint so clear up loose and soiled hay and bedding and safely store cleaning and grooming materials.

Install fire extinguishers adjacent every exit and inside every room and make sure everyone is trained in how to use them. Water fire extinguishers are effective at controlling Class A fires involving solids such as grass, coal, paper and fabrics. A CO2 extinguisher will deal with liquid petroleum fires and electrical equipment fires without damaging circuitry.

If the stable is remotely situated make sure a phone is handy in case you need to call the fire brigade. Install an optical smoke detector which is designed to be effective in dusty locations and if possible a high decibel audible alarm bell to warn of fire.

Not being a particularly equine person I probably haven’t covered all the fire risks and safety precautions, just the common sense basics and I welcome the experiences and suggestions of others.