Save Horses: Barn Fire Prevention Tips

Too many barns have overhead hay storage and we (FRER) never recommend having this as a way to store hay. Barns should also be built so there are multiple exits to safely get horses out in the event of a fire. Stalls with outdoor runs attached give horses a good way to get out if main door exits (located on both front/back of a barn) are unavailable.

Over the past three years, at least 281 equines have died in barn fires according to research conducted by Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

A barn fire is a nightmare for any equine owner and understanding risk factors and using preventive measures can help keep your horses safe.

“… and as I looked upward, through the bars of my empty (hay) rack, I saw a red light flickering on the wall. Then I heard a cry of “FIRE” outside, and the old ostler quietly and quickly came in; he got one horse out, and went to another, but the flames were playing round the trap door, and the roaring overhead was dreadful.” (Black Beauty by Anna Sewell)

Barn fires often occur more in the winter due to the greater use of electrical heating devices to keep water tanks/buckets heated. But items such as heat lamps and space heaters also pose a risk to your barn and should never be left unattended.

Using a physical checklist that is gone over every night before leaving the barn is essential.

When using electrical heat sources, consistently monitor to ensure there are no fuel sources in the barn area, and also always make sure to clear loose hay, cobwebs, and straw, if used, as fire will quickly travel through a structure if these items catch fire. .

You can also request an inspection by your local fire department, including a thorough inspection of your property to help catch potential risks. Take care of any issues immediately, which can include chewed-up wires, out-of-date fire extinguishers, propane or gasoline canisters that should be stored elsewhere, or damp, improperly dried hay which can spontaneously combust.

Understanding and finding the risk factors of a barn fire is an essential skill for any barn owner or manager!