At this time of year our local farmers are working virtually round the clock gathering in the hay in preparation for the winter ahead. Improbable looking machinery and flatbed trailers piled to the rooftops with bales, trundle through the village day and night in a seemingly endless train stocking up the huge hay barns that are a feature of our area.
In winter the process reverses with the same hay being transported throughout the country for winter feed.
Fire in any property is an owner’s worst nightmare but for farmers fires in hay and seed barns can wipe out a full seasons crop in minutes. Farmers rely on the hot summer days to cure the hay but the same heat has the potential to cause fire from lighting strikes, stray sparks from garden fires and poor housekeeping like discarded glass and cigarettes. Overheated machinery and engines also have a fire risk particularly in dusty barns with air borne particulates and chaff. Uncured hay can also build up heat like a compost heap and self ignite.
The same risks apply to cattle barns and horse stables. Barn fires are rarely small and they spread rapidly. Nearly two-thirds of all barn fires engulf the entire structure so just like your house fire prevention is the best method to reduce the risk.
A well installed lightning rod is the best protection against lightening strikes. They lead lightening to the ground and away from the barn. Keep a clean barn. Knock down cobwebs. Rake loose straw and hay from aisle ways and overhead drop bins. Remove flammable gases like propane or welding gas. Never store engine oil or tractor fuel inside a hay barn or stable.
Fit a site fire alarm like the Howler or rotary hand bell to alert others to the fire. You can also buy radio linked smoke alarms with a range up to 50 metres to alert you to a potential fire when you are in the house or yard.
A 9lt fire extinguisher can tackle small fires so are useful in stables and small barns. When choosing an extinguisher, water and water additive fire extinguishers are the best solution for small hay fires but you should also purchase an extinguisher designed for several types of fires, an ABC dry powder is the most versatile and are available as fast response Mobile Wheeled Extinguishers up to 100kg capacity. It will extinguish larger fires involving solids, flammable liquids and gases and is safe to use around live electricity. For larger installations like the one close to my home, consider installing your own hydrant for connecting a lay flat hose or couple up a Hose Reel to a stand pipe. Although it should be self evident install appropriate Fire and Site safety Signage to remind people of their responsibilities.
The public also have a role to play. Don’t throw cigarettes out of car windows as they can provide the spark to burn crop fields before they can be harvested. When enjoying the countryside be sure to fully extinguish any camp fires, collect used and broken bottles and all rubbish from picnics and dispose of safely.
Enjoy what’s left of our indifferent summer and respect the countryside. It’s a living for some.