Top 10 Winter Farm Fire Hazards
There is never a good time for a fire, especially on the farm. However, firefighters will quickly tell you that winter fires can be some of the worst. Freezing temperatures, poor road conditions, wind and many other variables make the task of containing and extinguishing a fire even more difficult and dangerous. It is essential to take preventative measures and prepare yourself in case of a fire emergency as it can be hard for firefighting services to reach you. Often these services are farther away, increasing response time immensely. Time you may not have... So, prepare today by being aware of the top ten fire hazards on farms in winter:
1. Barns and Storage Areas
Rodents and small animals seek warmth and food in winter. Unfortunately barns and other storage areas often provide both. These pests will build nests and chew on wiring in these areas, which can start terrible fires that are difficult to extinguish. These fires often happen due to damaged wiring that has become faulty, which emits a spark. All it takes is one spark to quickly ignite anything such as nests, bedding, cobwebs, or dust.
To help prevent these fires, we recommend inspecting areas where wiring is placed and using safe rodent control practices. If you have children or pets, be mindful of how you manage pests as some practices could cause injury and/or sickness. In addition to these, we encourage you to install smoke detectors and fire alarms to help alert you of a fire, and place STOP-FYRE® by all doorways, entrances and exits. We also recommend placing signs indicating where all extinguishers are located so it is easy for anyone to put a fire out whether that is you, your family, friends, workers, or emergency personnel.
2. Space Heaters
Space heaters pose a great risk of fire, especially on the farm. By their nature and usage, space heaters are prone to tip-overs or being left on far too long. If tipped, and hot, the heater can easily ignite materials placed too close to the unit or those that it touches. To prevent tipping, place the heater on a stable, level surface in a safe location where it is not prone to accidentally being knocked over. It should also be placed at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn or is easily combustible.
When selecting a space heater opt for one with no exposed heating coils, that has an auto-off feature once a certain temperature is reached, and that has an auto-off safety switch if tipped. However even with these features, never leave any heat source unattended and always turn off when leaving. Additionally, be conscientious of how they your heater is being powered.
Do not use extension cords and power strips with space heaters as most are not designed to withstand the load of electricity needed. If you do need to use an extension cord, use the shortest you can and be sure it is a heavy-duty (14-gauge wire or larger). If you are not sure what is recommended for your heater, always check and follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and keep STOP-FYRE® at least 5 feet from your heater. Place your extinguisher in an easily accessible location for quick access in the event of a fire, and be sure to place a sign where it is located so all can be prepared in the event of an emergency.
3. Extension Cords
Extension cords are convenient, but when misused pose a great risk for electric fire. Fires can occur if an extension cord is placed under any material, as it can cause the cord to overheat and breakdown. A damaged cord, whether from materials covering it, or winter elements such as rain or snow, reduces its ability to transmit current. Because it cannot transmit the current, it can start to get hot and when in contact with flammable, or dry, materials it can quickly start a fire. The cord could also short, creating a spark, thus igniting surrounding materials as well.
To help prevent a fire, check for any damage or wear and examine if it is hot. If it feels unusually warm to the touch, unplug it right away and get a new one. When purchasing, check that it is the correct one for your specific needs. If you’re not sure when to replace your extension cord here are some signs that it may be time: no certification or rating label is on the cord, it doesn’t have a three-prong plug and connector for modern wall receptacles, the wires have cracked insulation or exposed wiring, or the cord and plug have a loose connection. DO NOT try to fix cords yourself by slicing or taping, buying a new one is the safest option to avoid fire. Whether you have a new extension cord, or not, if utilizing an extension cord be prepared by having an extinguisher like STOP-FYRE® nearby. We recommend storing it an accessible area approximately 5 feet from the area in which you are using the cord.
4. Portable Generators
Bad winter storms, downed utility lines, and power blackouts force many to turn to portable generators. However, generators pose several risks many do not know, or often forget about. Generators need to be in well ventilated outdoor locations and be at a minimum of 5 feet away from all vent openings, doors, and windows. Place them so the exhaust fumes can’t enter the building through windows, doors, or any other opening. Direct the exhaust away from the building, if you do not do so, carbon monoxide poisoning could occur.
Do not refuel generators while on or when hot. Always turn off the generator and wait for it to cool. If you accidentally spill gasoline on a hot generator it can quickly cause a fire. Gasoline itself doesn’t burn, but the vapors from the gas do. Gas is very volatile when transitioning from a liquid to a gas. It is so volatile that an open flame is not necessary to ignite the gas, but simply one spark can cause the gas to ignite. If your generator is hot while refueling, a fire or explosion can result.
To prevent a catastrophic event, always turn the generator off and wait until cool. Be careful and clean up your mess if you spill before starting it again. Store remaining fuel in a container, label accordingly, and keep in a safe area outside of all living and working spaces. Always keep STOP-FYRE® on hand while working with your generator, and in easily accessible areas such as entrances and exits near the generator.
5. Equipment and Vehicles
Common causes of equipment and vehicle fires include defects in the fuel or ignition systems, improper refueling, smoking and matches, over-heated engines, and sparks from exhaust and friction. Be sure to properly clean and service equipment, as well as store in a safe location away from structures, clear of paths, and roadways for emergency access if a fire were to occur.
To prevent fire, keep exhaust systems in good condition to avoid sparks, and keep engines properly tuned and timed to avoid backfiring. Properly lubricating equipment can also help to minimize friction that may cause a spark and fire. Always check the fuel system for any possible leaks, and check that connections are secure and leak-free. Double check these especially after performing any work disconnecting or removing a fuel line or its system components. Be prepared in case of a fire by placing STOP-FYRE® extinguishers on all equipment, and in vehicles. For extra peace-of-mind, you can also install a STOP-FYRE® Automatic system, which will dispense when a fire is detected.
6. Hay and Grain
To help avoid fire and spontaneous combustion, make sure hay and grain are properly dried before placing in the barn or other storage facilities. Avoid storing too wet, and continuously monitor for any warm spots. If the temperature gets noticeably warmer than it was put in, keep a watchful eye. If the temperatures for hay reach 175 degrees Fahrenheit, get hay out or divide into small, shallow stacks. A fire can easily occur from friction, spark, or become internally hot and cause fire.
Always avoid storing hay and grain in the same building as livestock, machinery, electrical and heat sources, and other combustibles, fuel sources or accelerants. Be aware of a strong burning odor, visible vapor or smoke. If these occur, call your local fire department immediately and do not move the hay or grain. Movement exposes it to oxygen, which can further increase the speed of fire. Always keep at least one STOP-FYRE® extinguisher next to your dryer and storage areas.
Keep in mind when arranging bales of hay, do so in groups of 10 or fewer and place at least 100 feet away from structures. Leave 30 feet of bare ground or rock between the bale groups, creating a solid fire break if a fire does occur.
7. Flammable Liquids and Gases
Gasoline, diesel fuel, LP gas, degreasing solvents, paint solvents, and other certain paints are among some of the many flammable materials that can be found on most farms. Keep flammable liquids labeled in safety containers, and store them in approved flammable-liquid safety cabinets. Keep STOP-FYRE® in an easily accessible location outside of, and near, the cabinet.
If transferring flammable materials, bind the containers to each other and ground the one being dispensed from, to prevent sparks from static electricity. Often improper storage aids in the start and spread of these types of fires. A simple spark from an electrical fault or motor can spark and quickly ignite a fire.
8. Other Combustibles
Bedding materials, horse blankets, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides are among some of other common combustibles seen on the farm. Be sure combustible materials are not stored with machinery or near any type of electrical or heat source as these can heat, spark, and ignite these materials quickly.
Always follow safety precautions when handling hazardous products. Ensure they are clearly labeled and stored according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and applicable regulations. When mixing fertilizers and chemicals, do so carefully in well-ventilated areas. Always have materials on-hand to clean up spills immediately, and place STOP-FYRE® throughout these storage areas to have nearby when working with these types of materials. Clearly mark these areas with warning signs, and with signs indicating where to find the nearest extinguisher.
9. Manure piles
Should be at least 20 feet from any structures, in well ventilated areas, and downwind if possible. These piles should be inspected daily for any smoldering or internal combustion. We recommend when inspecting to have STOP-FYRE® with you in case of any fire activity. Manure piles, especially large, or those enclosed in pits, are extremely dangerous to do the gases they produce from the decomposing manure. Methane, for example, is continuously produced and released into the air. This gas, when accumulated, can cause a fiery explosion from just a single spark due to the combination of methane and oxygen in the air.
These fires are very dangerous as they can rapidly and easily spread. The risk for fire is even greater for piles contained within poorly-ventilated structures. However, fire is not the only risk with manure piles. The combination of gases produced can also be lethal for both humans and livestock. If you are storing manure inside, place STOP-FYRE® at all entrance and exits throughout the area for ease of access. Depending on the size of the area, if contained, you can work with us on a STOP-FYRE® Custom Automatic system made specifically for your needs and protection. This system can provide immediate action if fire is detected.
Should be done at least 20 feet from all buildings in a designated area. Keep plenty of large, deep ashtrays or receptacles handy. Poorly discarded cigarettes can easily ignite any dry material and cause a fire. Additionally, avoid smoking in areas where flammable materials are present and while refueling. Do not lay lighted cigarettes down and unattended, as they can easily be forgotten, or bumped by yourself or others. When finished smoking, be sure that the product is completely extinguished before discarding and leaving the area.
If a fire does occur, have STOP-FYRE® nearby in a designated area. This extinguisher should be for this area, so you are always prepared in case of an emergency. A fire can strike at any moment, and your extinguisher should be easily accessible to prevent further spread and threat of fire.
Winter on the farm is hard enough, but a fire is worse. Avoiding fire hazards, will make a difference that saves lives and property. But one also needs to be prepared with a dependable fire extinguisher like STOP-FYRE®. STOP-FYRE® is great in your home and on your farm because it requires no monthly or yearly service, is multi-shot, and it leaves no mess or clean up. It is also non-corrosive, compact and lightweight, and is so easy to use a 4-year old can do it! Plus, with a lifetime no-hassle guarantee, you can have peace-of-mind that STOP-FYRE® will help you when you need it most.
However, having an extinguisher is not enough, everyone needs to be trained on how to properly use it. First, find the base of the fire (hottest spot) and spray STOP-FYRE® at the base using SHORT BURSTS. Assess if the fire is out and spray again if necessary. In addition to training, place signs for people to see where the nearest extinguisher is located. Everyone should know where extinguishers are located and how to properly use them.
With a proper plan in place, avoiding fire hazards, and being prepared with STOP-FYRE®, you can stay safe this winter in the event of a fire emergency.
Related post: 12 Tips to Heat Your Home Safely This Winter