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18 July 2012

Fire Fighter Comments on preventing Fires on the Farm

In a recent discussion with a Fire Chief Matt Hetrick he sent a note to me with some of his comments regarding preventing fires during this drought. Here are some of his comments.

 In thinking about this topic as it relates to fire protection I think there are several areas that should be covered:

1)     During drought conditions its not just the fields that are dry. In fact any wood or natural commodity loses moisture. If you think about wooden barn siding, un-painted barns lose moisture faster in their old dried wood which creates the potential for faster fire spread should a fire ignite. There are several ways to deter fire spread of wood sided barns:
A)    Repaint barns, this gives the wood a protective coating, yes paint does burn, but at a much slower rate than exposed dried wood.
B)    Remove fire loading. Fire Loading pertains to anything that burns. The more you have to burn, the bigger the fire. The bigger the fire the less chance of it being stopped. Get rid of the trash, segregate commodities and supplies, create aisles, clean out the cob webs, etc.
C)    Inspect Electrical Equipment. Only use extension cords temporarily and unplug them when not in use. Make sure electrical components are in good working order. When it’s hot, electrical motors are hotter too, especially ones in bad repair.

2)     Control Fires. Most farmers burn trash, keep fires under control and supervised. Move fires far away from buildings. Call sooner rather than later. What I mean by that is when a fire gets out of control, most farmers try to handle it themselves and wait too long to call 911. It is much better to call and not be needed then to call too late and give the fire department a situation that is well out of control. From my experience of 25 years, false alarms are pretty easy to handle, 4 alarm barn fires that were started by burning trash are a nightmare.
3)     Know your water supply. Many farms have streams and ponds. Many fire departments know these streams and ponds, but often, during a drought we count on these water supplies to be there and they are not. If you know of a water supply that is normally accessible to the fire department and that supply is now dry, it is a good idea to give the local fire department a call and let them know.
4)     If you have questions or concerns, contact your local fire department and ask the fire chief to visit your farm. Most would be very willing and could provide helpful hints to keeping your farm safe.



Matt

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