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How to Prevent a Barn Fire

Barn fires can be devastating for farmers and their families, as well as their farm animals. The financial and emotional impact that barn fires can have may be felt for many years after the event. And, what ends up being a hardship for farmers, affects all of us.

Operational Preventative Actions

Fire Department Inspections

Annual inspections by your local fire department will help ensure that your electrical systems in your barn are working properly and free of fire hazards. This will also allow fire personnel to familiarize themselves with your farm’s electric panels and water supply, which will improve their response time in the event of a barn fire.

Fire Extinguishers

Ensuring that you have an ample number of fire extinguishers strategically placed throughout your barn is essential. Place them close to electrical panels and any other potential ignition sources. Check them annually to determine if they are working properly.

Emergency Planning

The best way to ensure that all farm personnel are prepared in the event of a barn fire is extremely important. Your preventative plan-of-action list should include:

  • Map out the barn and identify potential fire hazards and sources of ignition

  • Post contact information for key farm personnel and emergency response units

  • List step-by-step procedures to follow should fire break out

  • Include clear and concise process for evacuating farm animals in case of a fire

  • Practice annual fire drills and provide fire extinguisher training for all farm employees

On-Site Fire Prevention

Sprinkler Systems

The most effective way for putting out fires and reducing damage and fatalities caused by them is to install a sprinkler system. You should consult an expert to determine which type of sprinkler system is best for your particular barn since there are a variety to choose from. There are a number of wet, dry, or pre-action types of sprinkler systems. Costs and maintenance will vary, depending on which system you purchase.

Heat, Flame, or Smoke Detection Systems

Another way to protect your barn from fire is with early fire detection systems. These include heat, flame, or smoke detectors. At the very least, one of these sytems should be professionally installed in your barn and tested on a regular basis. You should consult an expert to determine which types of early detection systems are best for particular situation.

Electrical Systems

The best practice, according to experts, is to construct a separate electrical or mechanical room apart from the barn to house service panels and other electrical equipment. If that is not possible, be sure to keep the electrical service panel away from livestock areas.

Electrical Equipment Usage

It’s a good idea to try and limit the use of temporary electrical equipment. Anything that is not hardwired directly into your electrical system is considered temporary. This includes any piece of equipment that is plugged into a wall outlet such as heaters, power tools, and lighting. Frequent or long-term use like these increases your risk of a fire being started by a faulty outlet or extension cord, a space heater that has malfunctioned, fence chargers, and a variety of other sources.

Water Storage

Rural areas often do not have nearby fire hydrants. When hydrants aren’t accessible in your area, emergency responders have to truck water in to extinguish the fire. When a barn catches fire, every minute counts. Large farms should install on-site water storage units to assist firefighters in having access to water.

Building Materials

Whenever possible, building materials for interior walls and ceilings used in the construction of the barns and buildings on your farm should be made with fire-resistant materials that have low flame-spread ratings. These materials are categorized as ‘Class A’ by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other professional organizations. Installing firewalls is also recommended wherever applicable. If you have more than one building where animals are housed, allow ample distance between buildings or barns to help prevent a fire from spreading to multiple locations. The NFPA recommends keeping 60 ft. minimum of distance between each animal housing facility.

Additional On-Site Precautions

'Hotworks' Safety

Anything that produces intense heat or sparks is considered ‘hotworks’. This includes activities such as welding, cutting with torches, or grinding. The sparks produced from these types of actions can cause nearby combustible materials such as hay, manure, or other debris to ignite. Not only can a fire start, but in some cases, an explosion can occur. The best way to perform these jobs safely is to do them outside and away from the building and other combustible materials. If this is not possible, move all combustible materials away from where you are working and make sure there is adequate ventilation to prevent buildup of combustible gasses. And, always have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Farm Access Precautions

Roadways and Parking Areas

Be sure that your access roadways and driveways are wide and free of deep ruts and bumps and keep 20 feet wide fire/emergency lanes around all buildings. Be sure that regular vehicles are parked in designated areas to keep access roads open for emergency vehicles and equipment. Also, parking areas should not be located next to a barn or stable.


Be sure any gates on your farm are wide enough for emergency vehicles and set back far enough so that vehicles are not on the main road when stopping to open or close them.

Overhead Obstructions

Any overhead wires on roadways and driveways should be high enough for emergency vehicles to pass under safely. Also be sure that any low-hanging tree limbs and branches are trimmed back.

Keep Your Barn Tidy

Remove any piles of trash, or combustible materials in and around your barn. If a fire is ignited, it will be less likely to spread if it has nothing to feed on. Most importantly keep any fuel on your farm is stored away from your barn and other buildings.


Farm & Country Insurance has been helping farmers mitigate their risks through farm insurance and risk management services. We understand the unique risks of the farming industry because at our insurance agency, farm insurance is all we do. Call 585-624-2474 or toll-free at 800-258-2494 to discuss how we can help protect your livelihood from loss. Or, use our CONTACT form and one of our farm insurance agents will be in touch soon.


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