April: Farm Fire Prevention and Response
Fire safety is always a concern on farms due to machinery, chemicals, welding and exposure to harsh weather. This month’s Safety Share comes from Reid Hoover of Brook Corner Holsteins in Lebanon County and Steve Paxton of Irishtown Acres in Mercer County.
Reid’s family and employees were performing construction repairs on one of their barns last fall. It was a pleasant day with a blue sky and a steady breeze. The wind picked up sparks from the welding area and blew the embers over a cinder-block separation wall, catching on fire leaves and organic debris that settled on top of the wall. The workers used nearby fire extinguishers to put out the flame but Reid was suspicious that embers and debris could have fallen down into the wall and continued to burn. Despite the lack of flame and heat, he called the local fire company just to be safe. Firemen used a infrared camera to measure the temperature within the wall. The average reading was 50 degrees but as they neared the bottom of the wall, the temperature shot up to 200+ degrees. The firemen dismantled the wall and extinguished the flames. Reid’s advice is to be mindful of your surroundings and weather conditions when welding and follow your gut if you have a safety concern.
Steve Paxton experienced a moment of panic when he couldn’t remember where the fire extinguishers were located on his farm when he rushed to gather what he could to help a neighbor put out a fire. “I was only able to find three out of the 20 we have,” said Steve. His advice is to map the location of fire extinguishers on your farm so that you know where each is located in an emergency.
Visit the National Fire Protection Association webpage for a barn fire safety checklist and other resources for your farm.
Visit the Nationwide Insurance website for rural and wildfire prevention tips, including a safety and risk management guide for the Northeast U.S.