SPECIAL FEATURE – FIRE SAFETY FOR FARMS AND RURAL AREAS
Every year the Fire Service attends fires on farms, most commonly to hay barn fires. Most hay barn fires start as a result of either natural processes, carelessness or arson. Major fires can put even the most well-run business under financial difficulty.
Farms are particularly vulnerable to arson, their isolated location, open boundaries, readily ignitable hay and straw make them an easy target. Whilst arson attacks on farms and small holdings may be difficult to eliminate, a number of simple precautions can substantially reduce the risk of attack.
A lit cigarette butt thrown from a passing vehicle can mean the loss of whole fields of standing crops whilst glass bottles left lying around can, in grass or woodlands, cause fires of huge proportions.
Hay and straw should be removed from fields as soon as possible after harvesting.
When storing Hay and Straw
- Store them separate from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery.
- In stacks of reasonable size.
- Store separately from livestock housing where possible, always have an evacuation plan for livestock.
- Petrol, diesel and other fuels should be stored in secure areas; storage tank outlets should be padlocked.
- Fertilisers and pesticides should be kept under lock and key in a secure area.
- Refuse should be disposed of safely and on a regular basis.
- Electrical wiring should be checked regularly by a competent person to avoid overheating or arcing of connections in hay barns.
- Electric fences should not be located near the storage of hay/straw due to arcing that may occur when wires touch off objects
- Avoid using machinery in or near hay barns as exhaust sparks may be released into the stored fodder.
- Maintain firefighting equipment and check that it is in good order
- Prepare a fire routine and action plan, make sure all farm workers know what to do.
- A knowledge of access to nearby water supplies by farm staff will be invaluable to the Fire Brigade.
Remember – report all incidents of fire and anyone acting suspiciously to the Gardaí
If a fire does break out
- Call 112 or 999 without delay
- Speak calmly and clearly and only hang up when the operator tells you.
- Only attempt to fight the fire if it is safe to do so
- Send someone to the farm entrance to direct the fire brigade to the fire
- Prepare to evacuate livestock should the fire spread
- Prepare to use farm machinery to assist the fire brigade under their supervision.
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