Take precautions to reduce fire hazards on your farm

RICHMOND—Fire hazards in farm buildings can be devastating to a farmer’s property and wallet.

Virginia Farm Bureau Safety Manager Jimmy Maass said the biggest farm fire hazards are electrical malfunctions and the storage of wet hay. "Often I’ll see electrical wiring that’s worn out and not up-to-date, and in that case you’re just asking for trouble," he said.

Storing wet hay in a farm building is a hazard that sometimes is overlooked, Maass said. The hay will decompose, and the decomposition will generate heat, creating conditions for spontaneous combustion. The best way to avoid that is always to make sure hay is dry and perform multiple moisture checks before storing it.

Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 9-15.

Maass said there are several steps that can be taken to reduce fire risks.

Make sure electrical systems and wiring are in good condition. If you are unsure, it is wise to have an electrician check it. Keep wiring and electrical outlets clean.

Do not overuse extension cords, and don’t subject them to heavy traffic. Wear and tear can cause a short, which increases the potential for a fire.

A fire extinguisher should be at every exit in farm buildings, Maass said.

"Hang extinguishers on the walls rather than storing them on the ground, where they can rust and corrode. Make sure your extinguisher is an ABC dry chemical model, which will put out fires from almost any source."

All flammable materials should be kept in a fire-resistant cabinet. The containers should be in good condition and clearly labeled.

"If there is a fire, and your materials aren’t labeled, firefighters won’t know how to stop it because they won’t know what caused it," Maass said.

When storing hay, do not keep it near electrical outlets or fixtures. Don’t store anything flammable near outlets or breakers, and keep electrical panels accessible.

Some farmers choose to use lightning rods; however, the rods can cause damage if they are not installed and maintained properly. If you do have one, always keep it in proper working order, and check its cables regularly, Maass said.

For more information on Fire Prevention Week, visit firepreventionweek.org. To view safety videos from Farm Bureau Safety, visit FarmBureauAdvantage.com.

Contact Maass at 804-290-1379.

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