Six Ways to Better Prevent and Respond to Barn Fires

Rebecca presented about barn-fire safety at the 2014 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ convention. Read about the top tips she shared.

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Six Ways to Better Prevent and Respond to Barn Fires
Barn fires happen to people in all sectors of the horse industry. | Photo:

At the AAEP 2014 convention in Salt Lake City in December, Coralie Mouraw (a third-year vet student at University of llinois) and I worked together on a presentation for veterinarians that highlighted some of the simple, as well as the more expensive and difficult, methods of changing what we do when building barns to take into account barn fire safety for our animals. We made the point that traditional barn design really hasn’t changed over the past 600 years and that, despite improvements in many aspects of fire prevention and building ventilation engineering, many barn builders and owners never consult with fire fighters, veterinarians, or ventilation engineers when they build their barns. We hope to change horsemen’s attitudes about barn fires – they’re not just tragic losses in many cases, but rather they’re also preventable accidents that deserve our attention and diligent improvements.

We put together these six best ways to design, manage, and build a barn for prevention of barn fires, and be able to better respond and remove horses (in the 3 to 5 minutes before the fire department even shows up). The published article is available for download by your AAEP member veterinarian, or by request to me personally at

1. Every human house, public building, and restaurant has at least two exits from every structure. This is dictated by the NFPA’s (National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Codes and Standards). Why don’t horses have stall doors to the outside wall as well as the inside one? This should be standardized by all barn designers, giving any responder on scene (even without fire fighting gear) a chance to remove a horse from its stall without running into the dangerous inside aisleway (which always collapse into the center under fire conditions). It is even better to have a small paddock on the outside, so that the horse can be let out and haltered and led away from the barn. It’s even better to have a run-out lane so that all horses let out of their outside doors can be chased down a laneway to a pasture away from the barn, and then the gate shut to prevent them from returning

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Written by:

Rebecca Gimenez Husted, BS, PhD, is the primary instructor and president of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Her first book, Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, was published in 2008. She is an internationally sought instructor in technical rescue techniques, procedures, and methodologies, and she has published numerous critiques, articles and journal submissions on horse safety, technical large animal rescue and horse handling issues.

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