Fire Safety in the Winter Cold.

Last night, the first red and blue lights that came by were the ambulance, and I went, I hope that the person down the road is ok (we have a few elderly folks, and we have a few folks with chronic  health issues) but shortly after came the first fire truck, then from the other way came another fire truck and then came the OPP car. Someone locally had a very bad day..

I called and checked on my local friends, they called and checked on others, we got calls to make sure that we were ok. I am glad that we have lived in this area long enough that we are part of the phone checks.

Having said that… It’s a very good reminder that fire safety is something to be VERY careful in regards to the winter cold.  It’s important at all times but winter on a farm needs a few extra things. Because we live in Canada, there are a lot of folks here that are using their wood stoves to help heat their houses, shops and garages

So today, I am going to over some of the most basic things for the farm.

  1. Check your fire alarms, check your fire fighting tools.  Is that water tap frozen shut in that building, if it is…then make sure you have secondary tools at hand…and as it gets colder, we bring more things in…watch those walk-ways. Do not close off a second exit.   I went into a friend’s barn and she has two doors, she had the lawn mower blocking the main walk way on one side and she had feed, straw and so forth blocking the second way out, but she also had critters in that building.  I know we want to create warm winter buildings and we want to move investments for tools etc in for the winter but I will say it again: KEEP your fire fighting walk ways clear!
  2. Check your cords, and watch those drifting cracked windows. I would love to tell you that every farmer of course has power right where they need it but if you believe that, I have bridge to tell you about :).  The truth is we run outside power cords, I have a cord that runs out to keep the big pasture water trough ice free for them. Check that cord regular…make sure it’s not been nicked, make sure that wind has not pulled it (so far we have had three storms with wind gusts between 90 to 100 km plus) and while we have it built so that it is blocked, check that tiny crack.  If the wind comes right, snow and wet can creep in. Do you have a heat lamp, the odds are good you do…it’s either birds or new lambs or goat kids or piglets or maybe it’s over a spot for the old farm cat.  Regardless, check it regular, make sure it’s hung proper.
  3. Weather, wet and heating in hay or straw.  While you normally need to work about heating in hay earlier in the season, with these new and in many cases odd weather patterns, keep a eye on them.  I heard from a friend that she walked by an area that is for hay storage and she looked and went huh, she had steam rising in the cool morning light, and she went and gasped and started pulling bales apart. She had a small leak in the roof (and we have had rain), enough that it came into that one area, poured in, the hay got wet, the hay heated up…and while the odds are it would have been fine, she said that the worst ones were hot to the touch. The moral on this one…even if the area is a low traffic area, do check it.
  4. If you are using powered heaters, and I was just listening to folks talking about oil heaters vs fan blown heaters and they were not talking about use in the house but in outbuildings, the rules are the same. When it comes to those heaters, do not use extension cords, plug them into their proper power plugs, watch them…and in truth, ideally do as they say:  TURN them off if you can not watch them. I know that a lot of folks will not turn them off, so keep them off the walls, give them the space, keep them dust free, keep the area in front of them clean and check them daily.  I mean that  at least once a day, put yourself in front of them and feel where that heat is directed and then look around, most of them are now on wheels and are far too easy for a farm cat, or hound to move them even a few inches and while they were facing safely in terms of direction, that can change and quickly.
  5. Wood Stoves, ah wood stove, you rock, you are amazing.  The ability for us to grow our trees, harvest them, replant and repeat makes you such a awesome thing for those that need to heat in winter.  Having said that, do the safety checks in the fall, and follow the rules for heating with wood.

There are many more, feel free to add your farm winter safety tips to help prevent fires in the comments!


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18 Responses to Fire Safety in the Winter Cold.

  1. valbjerke says:

    We have several 5, 10 and 20 pound fire extinguishers. There is one mounted outside every single entrance door (barns, house, cabin etc, and mounted inside the buildings as well. The rule here is – if you’re inside use them to get out and don’t end up dead trying to save a building. If you’re outside and see a fire, do your best but again – it’s only a building. Our large animals always have access to outside.
    Every two years I have the extinguishers serviced. I also have a simple ‘map’ drawn out and posted on an outside wall of the first building at the end of the driveway (showing where the extinguishers are and the layout of the interior of the buildings). We also have a three inch gas powered water pump and enough fire hose to reach most buildings – that we can pump from a large pond, seems every year somebody in the area decides to burn their ditches/fields on the windiest day of the year and the fire department has to come to the rescue. Fortunately my neighbors are not stupid – but one needs to be prepared.

    • That is great impute, I had not thought of doing the drawings for where everything is.. and you are so lucky on the pond.. I wish that would be the case here but I do not have that ability.. thanks so much for your great overview of what you have done to prepare your farm!

      • valbjerke says:

        I drew the plans up because it occurred to me one day that should a neighbor or somebody be driving by and see a fire (or a grass fire approaching) it would be helpful if they could get an idea where everything is. Same should the fire department have to show up when we’re not here. 🙂

      • Very true, I mean I have a board in the building that I keep track for feeding and info for the very same reason if I needed to call in help, they just need to check the board.. and I will add that to my fire plan.. Great Idea

  2. All great ideas. My sister made a point of buying extra fire extinguishers to give to her children to “test”. Meaning they used them outside one day so the children would know what to expect should they ever have to use one.

  3. This is so ironic as I have already begun to write a blog post for tomorrow about fire. And YES I run long cords through the barns.. It is such a pain and terrifying. I shall link to your post when I do mine – you have made some good points.. I never write tutorials so this will be an excellent addition – having said that i am now going over to the west barn to check that water heater – I am always obssesively careful but that is an old cord. c

  4. judy says:

    Thanks for the great reminders! Can’t do enough checks.
    One fire hazard that we found out the HARD way is the manure pile! We did spring cleaning with a SMALL bon fire that was put out with water but without us knowing the fire had already travelled under ground to a old manure & bedding pile. Later wind came up that fanned the sparks. Living far from any fire department we just about lost our entire farm buildings, animals & home from one simple act. We never forgot the feeling when finally those fire trucks arrived & HELP was there! Yearly we deliver special baked goods to say THANKS to the local “fire guys”!
    Our local fire fighters will come out & check your property & give great advise…they say they’d rather do that then come on a alarm call. BIG THANKS for ALL fire fighters!!!!!

  5. Pingback: Fear of Fire | thekitchensgarden

  6. mountaingmom says:

    In our region, I see a lot of the outdoor wood furnacecs, often heating more than one houseer unit. I have wondered if instead of a second house, it could safely heat a brooder or baby critter pen.

    • it most likely could but it would need to be well planned out and a new building as typically the outdoor heaters then heat water lines in the flooring, something that will not help in older barns, an welcome, I am off to check out your blog, farmgal

  7. You’ve raised a really important point here. People tend to think of barns, garages and other agricultural buildings as ‘out of site out of mind’ at times, and as such the potential for accidents and fires goes up. It’s important to be disciplined with keeping such places tidy and hazard free for that very reason.

  8. Pingback: Friday Rambles around the table “Cold” | Just another Day on the Farm

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