Reducing the Risk of Fire
on Your Farm - Preventative Maintenance to Reduce the Risk of Fire
Table of Contents
- Electrical Systems
- Mechanical Systems
- Heating Appliance Systems
There are several operational and maintenance practices that
farm operators can use to reduce the risk of fires on farm.
General Operating Practices
Do not allow smoking in farm buildings. Restricting access
to farm buildings keeps people out who don't know or respect
When repairing fixed or stationary equipment inside a farm
building (livestock penning, stabling, etc.) with ignition source
equipment (welders, cutting torches or grinders), ensure that:
fire extinguishers are located in the work area
all combustible materials are removed from the work area
the site is well ventilated to reduce the concentration
of combustible gases present
Establish a fire watch during the work and for a period of
time following completion. Gas detection devices are available
if accurate gas concentration levels are required.
Establish good housekeeping practices. Eliminate clutter
inside and outside the buildings. Keep grass and weeds mowed
around buildings. These measures reduce the risk of fire spread
and improve the effectiveness of suppression activities.
Be careful when pressure washing inside a farm building.
The high pressure water can physically damage equipment and
allow deep water penetration into unwanted areas such as electrical
panels, heater controls, etc.
Grain handling and feed preparation activities generate dust
which presents an explosion and/or fire hazard. Vent these areas
and provide a fresh air supply. Properly protect electrical
fixtures and use totally enclosed, fan-cooled motors. Good housekeeping
practices are critical to limit combustible materials from this
Ensure all liquid fuel and propane storage areas are located
according to applicable Codes (adequate separation distance
from fixed ignition sources, etc.). If the storage tanks are
exposed to vehicle traffic, install protection (i.e. bollards
or equivalent) around the storage tanks to reduce risk of
damage from vehicle collisions (Figure 2.1
- Install all electrical equipment associated with fuel storage
(i.e. electric fuel pump) according to the Ontario Electrical
On-farm fuel storage with vehicle protection (bollards). (Photo
credit: FS Partners)
The combination of a humid (wet) and corrosive environment is
harmful to exposed electrical equipment (plug ends, unsealed junction
points, etc.). Excessive corrosion increases the equipment's electrical
resistance and results in increased heat production, the suspected
ignition source in a number of barn fires. Thermographic imaging
exposes the problem, primarily in swine buildings, however the
issue is also seen in poultry and other livestock facilities.
Review and follow these best practices relating to the use and
maintenance of electrical equipment.
On a yearly basis, have a licensed electrical contractor
inspect all electrical equipment within the barn. Focus
particular attention on cord caps (ends), ceiling mounted outlets,
light fixtures (Figure 2.2
) and electrical
panels located within the animal areas.
Light fixture in a dairy barn that caught fire due to the presence
of a bird's nest (proximity of combustibles). (Photo credit: R.
Drysdale, Farm Mutual Reinsurance Plan)
Complete a yearly thermographic inspection of the entire
electrical system when the barn is at its peak electrical demand
(e.g. summer for swine and poultry). Many insurance companies
now offer this valueadded service for their policyholders.
Make any necessary repairs to eliminate identified hot spots
Thermographic image of an electrical outlet in a barn discovered
during an annual inspection. Note the hotspots (red) at greater
than 100 °C (212 °F). (Photo credit: R. Drysdale, Farm
Mutual Reinsurance Plan)
The Ontario Electrical Safety Code permits the use of wiring
for damp locations in farm buildings housing livestock or poultry
when the area has adequate ventilation. For more information
on ventilating livestock buildings, see OMAFRA Publication 833,
for Livestock and Poultry Facilities
Replace older wiring that passes through the walls or other
concealed building spaces with wiring installed in conduit.
Have a licensed electrical contractor perform all electrical
work within the building to ensure it is done safely and meets
the requirements of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. All
electrical installations must be inspected by the Electrical
Safety Authority (ESA).
Properly secure wiring enclosure covers to minimize the entry
of corrosive gases and moisture. Replace damaged or deteriorated
Do not store flammable and/or combustible material underneath
or around the electrical panels.
Ensure a minimum of 1 m (3 ft) of clear access space in front
of each electrical panel.
Repair all damaged or malfunctioning fixtures or equipment
as soon as practical.
Completely remove or physically disable all abandoned or
malfunctioning wiring within the barn. Removing the fuse
or turning off the breaker is not a good practice, or long-term
solution, and can lead to dangerous situations if the circuit
is reactivated by accident.
Heat lamps are a common source of fire. When heat lamps are
required, protect the immediate area with non-combustible sheathing
(concrete board, concrete, steel, tile, etc.). Keep the area
around the heat lamp clear of clutter or bedding materials that
could catch fire. Only use heat lamps with the CSA or ULC label.
examples of incorrect and correct uses of heat lamps.
Example of incorrect use of a heat lamp.
The following situations are incorrect ways to use a heat lamp:
lamp suspended using baler twine (combustible material)
incorrect wiring, electrical cords are knotted together
lamp suspended too close to bedding (combustible)
animals have access to lamp
Example of improved use of a heat lamp.
The following situations are correct uses of a heat lamp:
lamp suspended using chain (non-combustible material)
plug connection is not knotted allowing for easy separation
lamp suspended at a correct height to bedding
limit large animal access to lamp
Mechanical systems such as ventilation fans, feed auger motors,
milk cooling equipment and generators break down or wear out with
time. Regular maintenance reduces the risk of overheating and
decreases the risk of fire.
Inspect all motors and mechanical equipment according to
the manufacturer's maintenance schedule (minimum, yearly) for
evidence of wear, overheating, etc. Repair or replace equipment
Ventilate mechanical rooms to reduce the risk of motors (standby
generators, refrigeration compressors, milk vacuum pumps, etc.)
overheating during normal operation.
Properly shield exhaust pipes from standby generators or
vacuum pumps, that pass through a wall or ceiling, to reduce
the risk of the building overheating and possibly igniting (Figure
). Figure 2.6
shows the potential
risk for fire due to the lack of a heat shield ring.
Figure 2.5. Proper installation of the exhaust
pipe through the wall. Note the heat shield ring around the exhaust
Figure 2.6. Thermographic image of an exhaust
pipe. Note the lack of heat shielding where the pipe passes through
the wall. (Photo credit: R. Drysdale, Farm Mutual Reinsurance
Example of a dirty fan in need of cleaning.
Heating Appliance Systems
Heating systems are particularly important as they contain an
ignition source (i.e. pilot light, igniters) and open flames.
Complete annual maintenance of all heating devices within
the farm buildings. Consult a qualified heating technician
for this maintenance. Figures 2.8a
show how heating equipment can corrode in a barn with high humidity
and corrosive air properties.
- Ensure all heat shields are in place for any heating device
that requires them. This is especially important for radiant
tube heaters (Figure 2.9).
Figure 2.8a. Rear view of a radiant tube
heater inside a broiler barn.
Front view of a radiant tube heater inside the same broiler
barn. Corrosion is present.
Radiant tube heater lacking heat shield. Note close proximity
to combustibles (wood ceiling and conduit). (Photo credit: R.
Drysdale, Farm Mutual Reinsurance Plan)
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300