Monday, June 27, 2011

Barn fires

 If barn fires upset you, or you lost a horse in a fire, or you don't like to contemplate scary situations, don't read this. I'll admit this post is a total downer.

Harv is your typical anxious thoroughbred, and he's known me for fourteen years. When we were going to horse shows years ago, Harv stayed on the trailer while I got ready. When he couldn't see me he would call and stomp. Our horse hauler told me he was restless and anxious when I wasn't around. As I walked around the trailer, he followed me with his eyes.

That's not necessarily love the way humans experience, but I think  it's "Harv love." He doesn't like to be alone in strange situations, and I'm a source of comfort the way any familiar thing would be. It's not hard for me to imagine that Harv would look for me when he is afraid, or when he needs help.

Barn fires...
The thought of a barn fire terrifies me, not only for the obvious reasons, but because the first thing I imagine is Harv being scared, and looking for me, wondering where I am. It's the most crushing thought I can think. When I read about Boyd's fire,  I couldn't stop thinking of those poor horses being afraid--and their owners thinking of their horses being afraid. 

Lack of control
Keeping a horse safe means keeping his environment safe. As a barn manager I would disallow residential fans, and there would be no heated buckets, and no smoking on the property, much less near the barn. I can't update the wiring and take steps to protect it from mice. As it is, I'm just a boarder, and can't control each and every detail of my barn.

But you do what you can. I have convinced some of the boarders to throw away their Lasko fans at the end of the year, and to make sure the cords are encased in a short length of hose (no chewing). I snapped at a barn worker who sat on the bags of shavings outside the barn while smoking. Bob is only allowed to smoke in the car at the barn.  I know where every fire extinguisher is.

What are your fire safety practices?


  1. Absolutely no smoking. We keep the hay and woody pet in a separate barn.
    We do have fans, but they are mounted on the stalls. The horses are turned out for most or all of the day, so they do not spend too much time in the barn.

    During the winter I spied a space heater in the tack room. The space heater was unplugged and I never saw it turned on, but someone must have used it to warm up during barn work. This made my blood boil, but as a boarder I must pick my battles. After all, I am not the one freezing my tuckus off while cleaning stalls and water buckets, but I am paying to keep my horse safe. So frustrating.

  2. It's not a fool proof plan, but I always request that my horses get the stall at the very end of the aisle, closest to the doors. I've been lucky so far that my barns have accommodated this request. I know that there's still a risk, but my hope is they'd have the best chance of someone getting to them if they're at the end of the aisle. Like you said, as a boarder there's not too much I can do to fire-proof the barn.


    Here is a pretty good link for a post on FHOTD regarding barn fires.

  4. The one best thing one can do is ask for a walk-through by the local fire department. OOOOOO, the things this man pointed out, the questions he asked! It created a lot of work and planning and rules revisions, but so worth it! Um, it was free, too.

  5. I have industrial fans on the floor and breakers on the outlets. No smoking in the barn, of course...but since I'm pretty much the only one here, that's a given. Hay is stored somewhere else.

    My horses are rarely locked in unless I am home. I would hope, if something happened, they would leave the barn on their own.....

  6. I have been through a barn fire with my first horse. I had leased her to a breeder while I was in college, and her barn went up one winter night. The only horses that survived were my mare and the filly in the stall next to her. They were in outside stalls, and my mare broke down her stall and part of the wall to get out, allowing the filly to escape too. Unfortunately, the filly, as we know horses will do, ran back to her stall, and suffered pretty severe burns on her back, My girl had a lot of hair scorched off, and some small burns on one side, and that was it. The breeder's stallion, whom she has raised from birth and shown to national championship was found at the door to his stall, where he was waiting for her to come get him out.

    What do I do? Everything I can, but in the end the best barn in the world can have an accident.

  7. No one here at our home smokes, and I wouldn't allow it near the barn. I can only remember one person in 7 years asking, and that was away from the barn itself.

    We use fans rated for outdoor use, that have sealed motors, and use heavy duty outdoor extension cords that go from fans up and not in reach of horses. (fans are mounted up so the cords are already out of reach)

    If one of us is not home, a rarity, the fans are turned off. I don't leave anything electrical going if someone isn't here.

    We don't store hay, shavings, or anything like that in the barn.

    The main thing we do though is not close the horses in their stalls when we're not right there. They eat meals in stalls with closed doors, and I'll close the pony in for a couple of hours while I do chores so the two big geldings can lie down w/o him pestering them, but other than that back doors to stalls stay open.

    Last week we had a sort of test - a fan blade broke and was banging around inside the fan cage - son was home and said it sounded like machine gun fire. I was horrified - but he said all the equines went out of the barn and gathered at the far ends of the two paddocks until he got it unplugged. As soon as the noise stopped they meandered back in!

    We boarded for 9 months and then bought our own place so we could manage things the way we want. We were boarding 3 horses so... it actually ended up being cost-effective in some ways. (i.e. until we got the 3 more that took equine expenses over the top)

  8. Ours are in their stalls only at meal times and when we have visitors present; otherwise they can come and go as they please. We don't have any fans, although I have thought about it this summer (104+ temps blech).

    We worry more about a fire in the woods behind us and/or trees falling on the fenceline and spooking the horses loose (we had a neighbor's horses "break in" one time - knocked a section of fence down - they were hungry and unhappy at home and we are, apparently, Shangri-La over here ;o)
    Hay bales (when we have them; we use round bales) go in the garage *laugh*. Strange, but true.

    @ Val - A space heater would definitely scare me too, especially in the barn (yikes!)

  9. What about tying a plain metal ring on to the screw eye with twine? It would make it easier for the grooms to clip on the stall guard one handed and keep the twine from hitting the ground so much.


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