Only You Can Prevent Barn Fires

It’s better to have the local fire department out on the farm for a tour than fighting a fire that could have been prevented.

Pittsville Fire Chief Jerry Minor explains that the fire department cannot inspect your standard farm like it can a commercial building. He encourages farmers to invite their department out to not only identify potential risks that can be addressed, but to create a response plan in case there is a fire on the property.

There are resources to help you address fire hazards on the farm. The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center has a checklist focused on fire prevention, and it has Chief Minor’s stamp of approval. UMASH outreach specialist Megan Schossow breaks it down:

farm Fire Prevention checklist

  1. Keep It Clean
    • Cobwebs, dust, bedding and feed can catch fire. Sweep it up.
    • Clear debris from electrical outlets, electrical panels, fans and lights.
    • Control rodents.
  2. Store Flammables Properly
    • Keep chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, paint and oils away from machinery, heating sources and electrical equipment.
    • Keep these flammable liquids in labeled containers. Note the quantity, date purchased and type of liquid. Store in safety cabinets with a warning sign.
      • These tips also apply to oil and grease rags.
  3. Check Electric Infrastructure
    • Repair or replace damaged or exposed wiring.
    • Wrap wires in corrosion-resistant conduit pipes.
    • Use extension cords temporarily.
    • Unplug what’s not in use.
  4. Maintain Heat Sources
    • Keep heat lamps secure, clean and in good repair.
    • Same goes for your furnace, wood stove and water heaters.

Not all fires are prevented. Do you have an emergency plan in place?

fire emergency plan tips

  1. Know Your Fire Extinguisher
    • Keep up-to-date class ABC fire extinguishers in every building and on your equipment.
    • Regularly practice fire drills and how to use the extinguisher.
  2. Know Your Fire Department
    • Or better yet, make sure your fire department knows you.
    • Invite your local department to the farm for a tour. This allows them to map hazards.
    • Keep the yard clear of debris for fire fighting equipment. A driveway width of 12-14 feet is preferred.
  3. Give The Right Information
    • Have a list of emergency phone numbers and addresses. Schossow recommends laminating it and keeping it near the phone.
    • When you call for help, give specific details about location and the situation so that EMS comes with the correct equipment. An ambulance cannot drive across a plowed field.

As Wisconsin’s No. 1 farm insurer, it’s our job to understand the risks farmers face so we can help prevent them. A fire is a devastating loss. Talk with your local Rural Mutual agent about fire safety training resources and other ways we can help you protect your farm.