HELLO WEEKEND: Disaster Planning – Fire

What happens if you smell smoke in the air?  Will you wish you had done your preplanning and set up your home and property with everything you need in a fire emergency?  Or will you, in the terrible beginning moments as you confront the emergency, find there is no one to help you, find what you have is broken or inadequate, or that you can't get to your supplies?  When you plan, always consider the worst possibility: no water, no power, gas, roads, or communication and worst of all, it's probably dark outside!

Preparing your land and your supplies

  • Review your own situation carefully.  Decide what items you feel are necessary to sustain your family, outbuildings, livestock, pets, etc. during the emergency.  Keep a written list of supplies and their location in a very obvious spot.
  • Keep emergency supplies and fire fighting equipment in a location that will always be accessible.  Do not use these tools except for an emergency and keep them clean and always in good working orrder.  Have motors servicesd regularly.  Be sure to get the proper training on the use of all your emergency equipment.

Large tools:

  • Fire extinguishers, need to be checked/recharged annually.  Keep several in your barn.  One at each end and spaced out throughout the barn.
  • Gasoline powered pump and hose to retrieve water from a swimming pol, stream or farm pond.
  • Flashlights with a supply of fresh batteries.
  • A generator with a fuel supply is the most useful item in a short term farm emergency and is essential in a long power outage.  You need quick hookups to equipment needing electricity installed in advance of the emergency.  Keep etra fuel filters, spark plug, and air cleaner.
  • Small bucket heater that will run off the generator.
  • Extra fuel safely stored.
  • Hand tools such as sledge hammer, rake, chainsaw, wire cutters, leather gloves, water buckets, plastic bags of various sizes.


  1. Protective clothing: cotton, wool and leather fabrics are the best.  Synthetics melt and rubber burns.  you will need long sleeved shirts and long cotton or wool pants in fire area with leather gloves and boots.  Tennis or runners can melt.  A cotton bandanna can serve as a mark, sweatband, ear warmer and to protect your hair.  Have a good pair of eye goggles to protect your eyes from smoke and ash.  Rain gear.
  2. Can the emergency departments find you and get equipment onto your property?  Check the width of your gates.  Make sure that your address is easily seen from the street.  If you have an electric security gate, be sure everyone in the home/barn know how to open it when the power is out.
  3. Know where any fire hydrants are in your area to better assist fire personnel.  If you have a farm pond, consider installing a dry hydrant.  if you have neither, preplan with your fire department concerning the need for a tanker.
  4. If you have natural or LP gas service, locate the hut off valve and have the appropriate tool in clear site.
  5. Know where your main barn electrical service panels are located and how to shut them off.  Know how to hook up the generator.
  6. Supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline, propane, erosene, etc. elevated and at a safe distance from the house and barn.  These must be clearly and properly labeled as hazardous materials.
  7. Have outside faucets on every building.  Make sure a hose with a nozzle is attached at each location.  Check the condition of hoses every six months.  Consider installing sprinklers in, around and on top of arns.  Consider lightning rods.
  8. Store trash barrels filled with water.  Smaller buckets are used to carry water.  Have plenty of burlap bags and/or large bath towels available since they are useful for fire fighting  and for horse protection.
  9. Be prepared to put out fresh hot spots with your stored water and bucket or wet burlap bag.  Shovel dirt on spot fire, if possible, to conserve your water supply.
  10. Large clearning are generally safe for your horse during a fire.
  11. Fire travels very quickly and travels faster going up hill.  Fire creates its own wind.  This can cause cinders to fly everywhere, including protected areas where your horses may be.
  12. Proper trimming and pruning of your trees and clearing under them will make a huge difference.  Use fire retardant plants in landscaping will minimize the air borne cinders created during a firestorm.
  13. Keep a list of emergency telephone number near all phones - fire, police, veterinarian, disaster services number and a list of nearby people with trailers to assist in quick evacuation should this becomenecessary.  Program i key numbers, but don't depend on speed dialing working in an emergency.
  14. Examine your horse facility and note what is NOT FLAMMABLE.  You will quickly realize that most things burn - wood, plastic, paper, etc.
  15. Feed burns! The drier the hay, pellets and grain, the faster it burn.  Keep your feed and bedding away from structures.  The fine dust left by feed on the floor is also flammable.
  16. Hay stacks can become blazing infernos.  Use a flame retardant cover over your stack, but it if catches fire - pull the stack apart if you can do so safely.
  17. Bedding in stalls is extremely flammable.  Horse manure burns!  Store it in a safe place away from buildings and have the pile removed often.  Spontaneous combustion is possible with manure.
  18. Cobwebs are flammable and it will provide a quick pathway for a fire.
  19. Spontaneous combustion can happen where you store saddle cleaning supplies.  Store cleaning materials in a sealed fire resistant container.
  20. Eaves on your buildings can attract fire if they are open.  Roofs and gutters should be kept free of leaves, pine needles etc.
  21. Use fire safe equipment for your horse.  Nylon halters and ropes can melt into your horse's flesh.  use a leather halter and a cotton lead rope.  Metal pieces on halts can become burning hot.
  22. Be an aware owner.  Horses may panic and become wild with fear when they perceive danger.  Their instincts for survival are very strong. Horses that are in a panic state frequently will not leave the security of their stall.  Any barn can burn and horses must be led out and placedin a secured area or they may run back into the fire area particularly if the rest of their herd is there.  Blindfolding a panicked horse may help it accept being led to safety. If you must tie your horse be certain you are using a firmly set post.  Practice typing your horse for extended periods of time so he can be secured during a real emergency.
  23. Pack a Horse Evacuation Kit in a non combustible container.  This should include all the equipment you will need and if possible, this kit should be kept in your horse trailer.


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