Fire is the most terrible death than can befall an animal, especially the horse, because the horse is penned securely within its corral and stable. The horse owner almost surely has committed to memory the telephone number of the veterinarian but does not know the number to dial in case of fire. Fire prevention and safety is the duty of every person involved. Many of the preventative measures apply whether the facility is at a track, a training barn, summer camp stable or backyard barn. Fire safety involves common sense and a trained response. Be safety conscious at all times. Fires give little warning. Rehearse the necessary course of action to be followed with members of your family, your boarders, youth in training and others directly involved with the animals in the barn in the event of fire. Conspicuously post the number of the local fire department by all telephones. Fire prevention is easier to preach than practice, but it is a vital part of horse ownership and management.
Records show that the majority of fires in stables are caused mainly by misuse of electrical apparatus, heaters, and careless smoking. Other causes of fires are lightening, arson, and spontaneous combustion. Because more and more horse owners are moving out to a small acreage of their own and building their own stables and horse barns, this article will focus on the small scale horse facility.
All horse barns have the following in common:
- Wood construction
- Bedding, straw, sawdust or shavings in stalls
- Storage of hay, bedding straw or shavings in close proximity to the barns
- Highly combustible materials
A horse standing in a bed of straw might just as well be standing in a pool of gasoline should a fire occur. The burning rate of loose straw is approximately three times that of the burning rate of gasoline. The horse in a stall where the fire originates has only 30 seconds to escape. The flame spread and heat is so rapid that a fire, once started, is out of control in a matter of minutes. These startling statistics dramatically emphasize the fact that a stable fire, once underway, does not give much time for evacuation of horses. Automatic sprinkler systems are advocated for commercial facilities such as racetracks and large breeding establishments and other commercial-type enterprises. However, from a monetary point of view, automatic sprinkler systems generally are not included in the smaller scale operations. Overhead sprinklers may not work in freezing temperatures. Water-type fire extinguishers are effective if used within the first minute. Since stable fires develop rapidly due to the abundance of combustible materials, fire extinguishers are of little or no use once the fire has gained burning time (60 seconds). Fire spreads rapidly, as does panic. Quick action is necessary to save the life of a horse. The person who is knowledgeable in the correct course of action will be more effective than five people in a panic state.
Procedures to be followed in the Event of Fire:
- Call fire department
- Evacuate horses
- Use halters and lead ropes: Blindfold, if necessary
- Move horse to holding area away from barn site and out of the way of fire-fighting equipment such as an adjacent riding arena. Remember, horses will run back home or back to their stall when frightened.
- Open all access (road) gates to the barn area. Use available fire fighting equipment until help arrives such as extinguishers and hoses. But, know when to quit, do not put yourself in danger.
- Keep roads clear for fire equipment.
Plan what to do In Case of Fire
- What to do with the horses?
- How to fight a fire?
- Where is the alarm?
- Where is the electrical master switch?
- Do all horses have halters and lead ropes hanging on the stall door?
Fire prevention and safety should be taught along with basic equitation by trainers, organizations, and parents. As schools have fire drills for the students, so should the barn manager and trainer instruct students in the course of action to follow in case of fire. Assign someone at the barn to be responsible for posting fire rules. Remember a lot can be done to diminish the ever constant threat of fire. We all must know the proper actions to take in case of a fire so individuals, horses and the loss of property can be minimized.