Fire season can be a daunting time for horse owners and horse property owners. Every year, thousands of horses are killed and millions of dollar’s worth of property is damaged due to fires. Being prepared when disaster strikes fire can mean the difference between life and death for your horses.

As the founder of, the world’s largest online equestrian property site, Barbara Greenhill knows about being prepared for the worst.
“Disaster preparedness is important whether you have a guinea pig or a horse,” said Barbara Greenhill. “But there is a lot more to consider when dealing with horses because of their size and sensitivity.”
Greenhill believes that the first step to avoiding disaster is fire prevention. This includes prohibiting smoking in or around the barn, keeping vehicles out of barns or hay storage areas, and making sure your hay is dry before storing it. Greenhill noted that “More than a few barn fires have started when moist hay burst into flames.” This is because wet hay decomposes quickly, and decomposition causes heat which can not escape from inside a stack of hay bales. Another important fire prevention tip is to check electrical wires and appliances often. Rodents, prolific even in the most tidy barns, can chew through wires and cords, leaving them exposed and ready to start a fire.
Being ready for a fire in your barn, or an approaching fire, can save precious minutes. Greenhill has come up with a list of fire preparedness tips for her clients that have likely saved lives.
• Keep barn aisles free of debris, open, and free of equipment.
• Keep fire extinguishers near all barn entrances and keep them maintained and ready for use.
• Post emergency telephone numbers such as barn manager, veterinarian, and emergency responders such as fire and ambulance.
• Post your barn’s street address near the phone so that it can be quickly relayed to the 911 operator. Be sure your address is clearly visible from the main road so that responders can find you.

“Hosting an open house for emergency services personnel can help them become familiar with your property,” said Greenhill. She also recommends giving a demonstration on safe horse handling as many firefighters have little or no horse experience.

During an actual emergency, the time you have to evacuate your animals and your family will be very limited. Having an evacuation plan in place is key. It is also important that you, your horses, and your staff practice the evacuation so that everyone knows what to expect if the worst happens.

“Don’t wait until it’s too late to evacuate,” says Greenhill. “If you wait until the last minute, you could be forced to leave your horses behind.”

Your evacuation plan should include which horses you will transport and where they will be taken. Make arrangements ahead of time of a safe place for your horses to stay for as long as necessary. A friend’s property, local fairgrounds or racetracks, a stockyard, or an equestrian center are all places to ask if they would be willing to house your horses in case of emergency.

If evacuation is not an option, you will need to have another plan in place. Greenhill recommends creating a “fire-safe” area on your property. This area would need to be made of non-flammable footing and fencing, such as a sand arena with pipe fencing, and have easy access to water.

It is clear that waiting until your horses and horse property are threatened by flames to act is not the answer. As Greenhill says, “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.”


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