Protection from Barn Fires

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Reprinting from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Equine Science Department.

barn fireBarn fire prevention is very important. Listed below are recommendations to help minimize the chances of a barn catching fire. Most stable fires are ordinary combustibles such as hay burning. The next major cause of barn fires are electrical fires.

First, take steps to minimize fuel and ignition sources.

  • Store hay and organic bedding materials in a separate section of the barn or in another building.
  • Buy hay at the correct moisture (<17% moisture) and check its condition frequently.
  • Store fuel and other combustible material in a separate building.
  • Keep the barn clean and free of cobwebs, chaff and dust.
  • Do not leave space heaters unattended.
  • Use lightning protection systems.
  • Use of electrical equipment should be monitored regularly because fires can start from malfunction of improper use of such items. Fires can start from single pail water heaters that short out.  Lights, lamps & household appliances containing heating elements, such as coffeepots, stoves, heating plates, etc. should be maintained & unplugged according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Evaluate electrical cords for faults of wear and age. Replace extension cords with new ones, use the correct cord length for the job, and only use heavy-duty 3-prong cords. Do not cover cords with rugs or mats.

Second, prepare ahead of time.

  • Post written emergency information at each phone
  • Keep halters and lead ropes easily accessible on stall doors
  • Post and enforce a no smoking policy
  • Keep the barn neat and cleanFire Extinguisher
  • Consider installing emergency lighting and lit exit signs

Install and know how to use the correct fire extinguisher

  • Place fire extinguishers in all barns, storage areas and rooms where people congregate
  • Fire extinguishers should be placed within 50 - 75' of any location in the barn
  • Fill and check extinguishers regularly
  • Fire professionals may visit and evaluate a facility and make recommendations
  • Fire Extinguisher Types and Codes

Fire Extinguisher Chart

Class of Fire Use Types of Fire Extinguishers

Ordinary Combustibles

These extinguishers will put out fires from ordinary combustibles, such as wood and paper. The numerical rating for this class of fire extinguisher refers to the amount of water the fire extinguisher holds and the amount of fire it will extinguish.

Water and Foam

Water and foam extinguishers contain water and compressed gas and should only be used on Class A (ordinary combustible) fires.They extinguish the fire by taking away the heat element.


Flammable Liquids

These extinguishers should be used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, etc. The numerical rating for this class of fire extinguisher states the approximate number of square feet of a flammable liquid fire that a non-expert person can expect to extinguish.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide extinguishers are most effective on Class B & C (liquids and electrical) fires. Since the gas disperses quickly, these extinguishers are effective only from 3-8'. The carbon dioxide is stored as a compressed liquid in the extinguisher. As it expands, it cools the surrounding air.


Electrical Equipment

These fires are electrical in nature, and you never want to use water to put them out until the source of power has been cut off. This class of fire extinguisher does not have a numerical rating. The presence of the letter "C" indicates that the extinguishing part is nonconductive.

Dry Chemical

Halon extinguishers contain a gas that interrupts the chemical reaction taking place when fuels burn. These extinguishers are often used to protect valuable electrical equipment since they leave no residue to clean up. Halon extinguisher have a limited range, usually 4-6'.




Date of Publication: 
January, 2019