Please respond to this discussion in the "Pitchforks & Playpipes" Group.
Barn fires are a farm owners worst nightmare. Most have tragic results whether it is the loss of human life, an animal, valuable equipment or the building structure itself. The majority of all barn fires are the result of carelessness and a lack of fire safety knowledge. Insurance statistics show that the two most common times of the year for barn fires are summer and winter. Summer fires are often the result of electrical storms or spontaneous combustion of wet, green hay bales. Winter fires are caused by appliances, rodents, or the accumulation of dust (saw, hay, grain, etc..) on or near electrical surfaces or other heated sources.
Firefighters should be able to identify potential fire hazards around the farm:
Highly Flammable or Combustible Materials - If at all possible, hay, straw and other types of bedding should not be stored in the same building in which livestock is housed. Care should be taken that these materials are not stored with machinery or near any type of electrical or heat source. Highly flammable materials may include:
* Hay and straw
* Bedding material (especially sawdust and shredded newspaper)
* Cobwebs, dust, and grain dust
* Horse blankets
* Pesticides and herbicides
Accelerants - Accelerants are substances that increase the speed at which a fire spreads. All accelerants are highly flammable or combustible, but not all highly flammable or combustible materials are accelerants. Accelerants must be stored in approved containers and properly labeled as such (plastic milk bottles do not quality as approved containers for storing chemicals). An updated list of all chemicals on the farm should be maintained. The list should include the name of the chemical, date purchased, the quantity of the chemical, and the place of storage on the farm. This list should be kept in a safe, handy place such as a farm office (not in the building where the pro-ducts are stored). In case of a fire, the list should be given to the fireperson in charge to aid the fire department in knowing what potential toxic fumes or explosions may result and how best to contain the situation. Common accelerants include:
* Aerosol cans
Hazardous Materials-These can be a nightmare for responding firefighters. Large storage and mobile tanks can hold up to 500 gallons or more of extremely lethal, and highly flammable substances that are used regularly on a farm. Many of these chemicals will not contain placards on a farm. Common farm chemicals include:
*Fertilizers (such as nitrogen)
*Nitrogen (Nitrogen-nitrate levels that exceed 10ppm in drinking water are considered a major health hazard)
Ignition Sources - An ignition source is something that can cause an accelerant or flammable material to ignite or smolder. Examples of ignition sources are:
* Cigarettes and matches
* Sparks from welding machines and machinery (trucks, tractors, mowers)
* Electrical appliances
* Fence chargers
* Electrical fixtures and wires
* Broken glass
* Chemicals which may react with each other or with water or dampness
Barn construction differs from residential construction due to the simple fact that many barns are old, heavy timber or wood frame with tin roofs. Large containers of hazardous materials may be stored inside, hampering firefighters from initiating a direct attack. Furthermore, structural stability and integrity of the barn may be weakened faster due to the age, interior fire load, and construction principles, making an interior attack impracticable and highly dangerous for responding personnel.