George Cook, UVM Extension
While we don't hear about barn fires often, they do happen, and when they do, they can cause heavy damage to attached buildings, livestock, tools and equipment stored in or near the barn, not to mention the risks to human health & wellbeing. Taking a few simple steps can help you prevent tragic losses in the event of a fire.
Install a reflective E911 sign by the entrance to your farm/driveway, just like those bright green signs for road identification. Need info? Contact your town office, fire department or rescue squad.
Developing a farm fire pre-plan with the help of your local fire department will make it easier for them to control a fire more quickly. You can download the University of Vermont Extension Farm Fire Pre-Plan datasheet.
On the form there's a place to provide your E911 address and a map of all the buildings, utilities, access roads and water sources on your property. Keep one copy in your files and give the other to your local fire department. Update this annually or any time anything changes on the farm.
Fall is a busy time, transitioning from outdoor work to more indoor activities. When checking your barns, farm shop and other outbuildings to make sure that they are properly prepared for colder weather, pay special attention to any source of supplemental heat as heating equipment is one of the biggest fire dangers on the farm.
Heating equipment needs to be properly installed and maintained to provide the warmth you want without increasing the fire risks. Old stoves may have cracks that can throw sparks, so be sure to go over that old piece and determine if is still safe to fire up. Maintain a safe space around heating units with no combustibles within at least three feet.
Stovepipes and chimneys are another common source of problems. When was that chimney cleaned last? Is it sound, free of crumbling bricks, with a safe liner? If you are unsure of any of these questions, it would be wise to contact a certified chimney sweep or mason and have it inspected. And do it now before the heating season really hits us.
Hot embers blown from burning brush, leaves or other refuse, often too near buildings are a fairly common source of trouble. Watch the weather and wind direction and never burn upwind of buildings. Visit http://www.uvm.edu/extension/agricultur for more information and stay safe this winter.