All too often, news stories emerge on fire ravaging swine barns resulting in extensive loss of both property and animals. Barn fires are one of the most challenging of all structural fires.

By nature of their rural location, swine facilities usually require longer response time by emergency crews and first responders and make fire prevention measures essential.

Since it is easy to lose focus on fire prevention when concentrating on routine job assignments and other day-to-day activities, assign one or two managers or workers as your facility’s fire prevention monitors. Make fire prevention a part of their on-going duties.

Since many common barn materials are flammable, good housekeeping is essential. For example, cobwebs can spread a fire from one end of a barn to another in seconds.

"Fires are often associated with heaters and electrical wiring,” says Paul Sundberg, National Pork Board vice president of science and technology. “We recommend that producers get professional assistance on servicing these items yearly to make sure they are functioning properly.” A good time to do this is before barns are secured for the winter. Put it on the calendar so it is not overlooked.

Any heat-generating device can present a fire risk, including space heaters and heat lamps. These devices must be used very carefully and kept away from flammable items.

All wiring should be installed by a professional and protected not only from the elements, but also from animals and rodents who chew on them. Situate electrical boxes in a location where they can be shut off quickly and safely.

“Make sure all ventilation fans and fan motors are maintained and kept clean,” says Sundberg. “Dust and debris can easily collect on fan motors causing them to overheat and increase fire risk.”

“Another important step is to have an emergency action plan,” says Sundberg. The Pork Quality Assurance Plus program outlines procedures in the case of emergencies. “It is something that is very important for producers.”

The National Pork Board provides the following fire prevention checklist:

Fire Safety

1. Are fire extinguishers placed every 75 feet in your operation?

2. Are fire extinguishers checked periodically to ensure they are functioning?

3. Are fire extinguishers checked annually by properly trained service personnel?

4. Do your employees know how to properly use a fire extinguisher?

5. Are all flammable materials stored in a fire proof storage unit?

6. Are heaters functioning in a safe manner?

7. Is your electrical system installed to comply with Article 547 of the National Electric Code?

8. Are weeds and grass kept mowed within 20 feet of your building on all sides?

9. Is your local fire department aware of the location of hazardous materials or areas on your operation?

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Source: The Associated Press, NPB