How to Avoid a Fire at Your Yard
Fires can be devastating and are surely amongst any equestrian’s worst fears. An incident can result in serious damage to your buildings, the loss of costly equipment and even the death of your horses.
In December, a fire devastated a yard in East Sussex. An electrical fault caused the fire in the tack room that broke out late at night. High winds worsened the blaze which then destroyed outbuildings. A passing motorist alerted the emergency services to the fire. As they were on the way to the scene a friend informed the owner of the stables.
Unfortunately, the tack room was gutted and around £45,000 worth of tack was destroyed. Three horses died in the incident. The yard was well-run but the safety measures in place were not sufficient to prevent the tragedy.
This terrible incident has led the fire service to highlight the dangers of fire at equestrian establishments. Yards tend to be situated in isolated locations. This means that it can take a while before anyone can raise the alarm in the event of an incident. Combustible construction materials and the presence of hay and straw mean that the risk of fire is high. So how to you minimise this risk?
Install smoke detectors and ensure that they are serviced regularly. An audible alarm could buy you valuable time. Display ‘no smoking’ signs prominently and make sure that the no-smoking rules are enforced.
Organising the Yard
Store straw and muck well away from the stables and sweep up hay and straw before a farrier arrives as sparks could ignite the material. Keep all fire exits free from obstructions. If you padlock your gates and entrances, ensure that everyone authorised to access the yard knows where the keys are kept in case you need to evacuate the buildings quickly. Do not permit anyone to light bonfires near your buildings. Fit emergency lighting or at least make sure that torches and spare batteries are to hand.
Any flammable materials such as petrol, paint and paraffin should be stored away from the yard and as carefully as possible. Your electricity system should be in excellent order and should feature the latest fuse boxes and circuit breakers. Check all cabling has PVC covers and is kept away from the horses. Switches must be waterproof and outside the stables. House master switch panels, transformers and meters in a waterproof cabinet and in a separate building.
If you do not have a telephone at the stables, leave a mobile phone for emergency use and keep it charged up. Evolve a fire drill, make sure that everyone is familiar with it and practise it regularly. Teach new staff the drill at the earliest opportunity. When you leave the stable or outbuildings switch off and unplug all electrical equipment.
Equipment Inspection and Testing
Check your electrical system regularly and inspect all electrical devices such as clippers. Look out for loose wires, frayed leads and cracked plugs.
Fighting the Fire
Keep the required fire extinguishers in accessible locations and have them serviced regularly. Leave a hose permanently attached to the mains water supply and make sure it is long enough to reach all of your buildings. If your budget will stretch to it, fit a fire suppression system.