More Tips on Reducing Your Risk of Hay Fire

May 3, 2010 05:35 AM
  • Because most fires occur within six weeks of hay baling, be sure to monitor your bales daily during that time. Probe the center of stacked hay to check temperatures. "That can be difficult because most commercial probes are too short,” says insurance and workplace safety expert Rick Adams. "But you can make your own with an iron pipe.”

Here's how: Use a 10' iron pipe with eight 3/8" holes drilled about 3" from one end. Then hammer that end together to form a sharp end. This will make a simple probe that can reach deep into the center of your stack. Lower a thermometer to the end of the probe with a small piece of wire. After 15 minutes, retrieve the thermometer. If the temperature reaches nearly 150¢ª, it will most likely continue to climb. Remove hay to provide circulation and cooling.

  • Hay fires often originate with electrical sources, so it's a good idea to check your electrical panel box with thermo-imaging every two or three years. "It will tell you if you've got a problem,” says Adams, who's with California-based Winton-Ireland Strom & Green Insurance Agency. "Some utility companies or irrigation districts will sometimes do this for you free of charge.”
  • Store hay on a raised concrete pad or even coarse stones on the ground to reduce moisture absorption.
  • Don't stack hay near public roads where discarded cigarettes can cause ignition.
  • Barns where hay is stored should have openings at each end, whenever possible, to encourage cross-ventilation and reduce moisture buildup.
  • Remove and segregate any hay bales that begin to collapse. This is a sign that those bales are subject to spontaneous combustion.
  • Keep hay stacks as small as possible, with a 100' minimum separation between stacks.
  • Purchase hay only from reputable brokers. "Calls offering one-time ‘cheap loads' from unknown brokers should be avoided,” Adams says.
  • Large bales are involved in more fires. Be extremely careful in putting up large bales. Probe all bales and remove any questionable ones.
  • The insurance industry is increasingly promoting the use of hay preservatives to reduce the risk of fire. Applying these during baling inhibits or reduces bacteria growth and allows hay to be baled at 20% moisture without the threat of spontaneous combustion. Propionic acid is a common, effective preservative."Preservatives don't work as well on hay with moisture levels above 30%,” Adams cautions.
  • Install water couplers at your dairy that are ready for firefighting equipment. "Work with your local fire department to see which hoses they use so you know which couplers to use,” Adams says.

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