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    Cold-weather Barn Safety | Winter 2012 Out Here Magazine

    The first step in winterizing your horse barn should be fire prevention

    a burning barn engulfed in flames, only the frame and the metal roof of the structure is left
    It doesn't take long for a barn to burn to the ground, so protect your animals and property by taking extra precautions.
    Out Here

    By Gary Heusner

    Photography by iStock

    We often spend a great deal of time "winterizing" the horse. We become concerned about respiratory diseases, special foot care, making sure plenty of water and forage are available and providing adequate shelter.

    Sheltering horses usually involves putting them in some type of barn. When you think about winterizing your horse, you should probably think about winterizing your barn also.

    A major consideration in winterizing your barn is emphasizing fire prevention. One rule of thumb is that a fire involving combustible materials — wood, straw, hay, shavings, etc. — doubles in size every minute. Therefore, in 10 minutes, the fire will increase in size by 4,086 times.

    What should you do to winterize a barn to prevent fires? These are some practices or items to check:

    • No smoking around barns. Ever. Post signs and enforce them at all times.
    • Practice good housekeeping: Keep barn aisles clear of clutter; brush down cobwebs; store flammable materials outside of the barn; have a separate facility for hay and straw if possible.
    • All light bulbs should have a metal mesh cage around them. This not only prevents horses from breaking bulbs, but it also prevents straw or hay from landing on a hot bulb and setting the material on fire, which may fall to the ground and ignite other combustible materials.
    • Faulty electrical wiring and connections are the leading causes of barn fires. Wiring should meet local building codes.
    • Electrical wires should be in conduit pipes so horses and rodents cannot chew through the protective insulation for the wire. Horses should not have access to conduit.
    • Have an adequate electric fuse box in the barn with easy access in case of a fire or other problems.
    • Never use extension cords or multiple-plug strips in the barn. Disconnect coffee pots, radios, fans, portable heaters, and other electrical appliances when they're not being used.
    • Have an adequate water supply and pressure. Make sure there are enough hoses with enough length to reach all areas of the barn.
    • Plan and practice a horse evacuation plan. Remember, if horses are taken out of a burning barn and turned loose, they often will run back into a burning structure. Therefore, make sure there are adequate holding pens or an area which horses can be confined when removed from the burning barn.

    Horse barn fires can be devastating. It does not take long for an entire barn to burn down with major economic loss as well as the loss of horses. Take extra measures to make sure your horses, and property, are safe.

    Gary Heusner is an Equine Specialist with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.


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