As news that early estimates of agricultural losses of at least $21 million following wildfires in Texas, horse owners are being urged to pay attention to fire safety, particular in barns and stables.
When it comes to fire safety, there are some top tips that need daily, weekly and seasonally attention.
The Texas loss estimates do not include equipment but do consider lost pasture – $6.1 million; fence repair or replacement – $6.1 million; buildings and corrals lost – $3.8 million; livestock death losses – $4 million; and emergency hay and feed, $1 million. An estimated 975 miles of fences were affected by the fires in the northern Texas Panhandle after they were either destroyed by the fire or from cattle trampling them to escape the blaze.
Canada’s Equine Guelph has a free download to help horse owners prevent barn fires, but says the items for the seasonal and annual agenda are often the most neglected. These include electrical wiring inspections and smoke alarm tests. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day chores and move seemingly less important items indefinitely to the “get around to it when time” list.
No-one wants to think about tragedy and loss but prevention protocol needs to be followed with diligence. Just one stray cigarette butt in an area with combustibles (such as hay and shavings) is a recipes for disaster and it only takes an uninformed visitor. It would be hard to forgive forgetfulness if an unattended fan or heater started a fire.
An extinguisher that does not work in a time of need is just another reason to make time for checklists and to ensure everyone at the stable has training on emergency procedures.
Details are easy to put off but prove critical in prevention. Trimming of weeds, grasses and brush from around buildings and regular removal of rubbish are great examples. Removing cobwebs regularly, sweeping up loose hay in the barn and storage areas and dusting are all good housekeeping to reduce those combustible fuel sources.
“Barn fires are tragic events with potential for human and animal loss of life or injuries and /or property loss. Approximately 40% of all barn fires are caused by faulty electrical systems,” says Dean Anderson, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services. He suggests to take the time to ‘Stop, Think and Act.’
Anderson adds: “This simple approach asks farm operators to stop, reflect about what is the worst that could happen; what the impacts of a fire would mean to your operations. Think about what you could do to prevent an event from happening. Have you talked to your local fire department, do you have an emergency plan, does everyone know who to call, do they know the plan to move livestock? Act to ensure an event will not happen. Do a walk-around inspection, ensure the maintenance and housekeeping are up to expectations.
“Taking a few moments now could save a lot of grief in the future.”
Additional reporting: Texas A&M Agrilife Today