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Horse safety: 5-step action plan for barn fires

This five-step action plan for horse barns, arranged in chronological order, should be posted and memorized – in case of fire emergency.
This five-step action plan for horse barns, arranged in chronological order, should be posted and memorized – in case of fire emergency.
Adapted by this user from Firefighting by Mark Logico, US Navy - public domain

What can you do, if your horse barn catches fire?

Because horse barns and other farm structures may be constructed mostly of wood and filled with hay and straw, they can combust rather quickly. More than 1,000 barn fires strike each year in the U.S., according to reports from the National Fire Prevention Association.

Despite proper precautions, blazes may occur from malfunctioning heating or electrical equipment, lightning strikes, stray sparks, engine misfires, or even arson. Quick thinking and speedy action is required of those on the scene.

What immediate steps should barn managers and equestrians take, if flames appear at a horse farm?

This five-step action plan, arranged in chronological order, should be posted and memorized – in case of fire emergency.

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Step 1. Call 9-1-1.

The very first step, if a barn fire occurs, is to telephone for emergency assistance. Fire and safety crews must be alerted immediately.

Most equestrian centers have land-lines. Barn managers, equestrian trainers, boarders and horseback riding students probably have cellular phones. This critical call must be made at the first sign of a barn fire.

Step 2: Clear out the creatures.

When a fire emergency happens at a horse barn, the horses and other animals must be evacuated immediately from the barn. A horse trapped inside a box stall stands little chance of survival in a fire.

Using halters and lead lines, the humans should guide all horses from the barn to as remote a fenced pasture as possible. If horses seem panicky, handlers can cover their faces with bandannas, polo wraps, or towels to lead them out.

Trainers and boarders are not restricted to handling their own horses in such a crisis. All capable hands pitch in to guide horses to safety, as long as they can do so without grave danger.

All horses must be placed in fenced enclosures to prevent them from trying to run back into the burning barn, as they might do in a fearful frenzy.

Although equine herd dynamics may generally dictate that horses are turned out together in certain combinations, a fire emergency exempts human handlers from this rule. The only goal, with a barn ablaze, is to get the horses out. If they erupt into hyperactivity, kicking and bucking in the pasture, this is a small price to pay for saving them from a fiery, torturous, and terrifying death.

Dogs and cats should be removed from the barn and placed safely inside cars, trucks, or other vehicles – as far away from the fire as possible.

Humans must exit the burning barn as well, moving to a place of safety.

Step 3: Shut it down.

Many barn fires are electrical in origin. In other cases, electrical explosions may cause secondary or accelerating damage in a fire at the stables.

By hitting the master power switches, shutting off all heat and electricity, barn staff can prevent this extra danger from occurring.

Step 4: Make a way for help.

Although closing the main farm gate is routinely the first rule when horses become loose, the opposite holds true during a barn fire. The main gate must be opened, along with any alternate road entry points, to accommodate fire trucks, ambulances, and any other emergency vehicles.

In addition, all obstructions must be removed from in front of any fire hydrants or water pumps.

All motorized vehicles and equipment ought to be moved as far away from the fiery barn building as possible to prevent possible explosions and property damage.

Step 5: Try to extinguish the fire.

Once horses, humans, and other creatures have been cleared from the burning barn structure, a few strong and capable individuals may try to hold the blaze at bay with fire extinguishers and water hoses.

By taking these five quick steps, in case of a horse barn fire, barn managers and their staffs and clients may help to minimize the damage to life and property and perhaps prevent a total conflagration at the equestrian facility.