We have all heard it, and most of us believe it. It goes something like this: “If you leave a halter and lead rope outside your horse’s stall, then a firefighter or first responder can halter him and lead him safely from the stall and out of the barn in a fire.”

Who told us that myth, and where did they learn it? And why do we continue to tell others the same myth? The truth is that in most barn fires, the common theme is that by the time someone notices the fire and attempts to respond, the fire has burned out of control and quickly consumed the building. There wasn’t even a chance to get the horses out. And in the meantime, it’s not necessarily the flames that have killed the horses inside, it’s the smoke.

As a rule of thumb, fires double in size each minute. The process follows strict rules of physics related to fuel load, ventilation, and oxygen availability. This means that usually by the time a flame is noticed, the fire department will not be able to get to the facility in time to save any people or horses trapped in the barn. In fact, numerous incidents have shown that you can expect the average barn to be fully “involved” (engulfed in flames) in the seven to 12 minutes that it takes for the fire department to be notified, respond to the location, and begin to fight the fire.

I have been working with Laurie Loveman for several years. She maintains an online database of barn fires involving animals at firesafetyinbarns.com. Her efforts and data show scores of fires involving animals. It’s important to realize, though, that many fires are not reported in the news and, th