IMPORTANT SAFETY NEWS!
This website is for everyone who has animals they want to protect from fire. Because this website was originally focused on the horse industry and fire safety, some of the information may seem pertinent to only equines, but that is definitely not the case. Basic fire prevention can be practiced in any structure and for the benefit of any oxygen-breathing animal. All animals have value, whether emotional or economic, and as a guardian of our fellow creatures, we have the responsibility for ensuring they are protected from peril. If you didn’t believe that you wouldn’t be here.
It’s probably impossible to determine how many farm animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, geese, and turkeys) live in the United States, but we do have a fairly good idea of how many camelids, horses and other equines live here. With their popularity growing, there are currently more than 162,000 llamas and over 200,000 alpacas being raised in the United States. At present there are about 9 million horses and mules in the United States (this number doesn't include mustangs running free).
Before 1900 and well into the 1940s, in many urban areas and smaller cities, it was common for chickens, ducks, possibly a pig or two, and a dairy cow to reside in the back yard of the house that their human owners occupied. These urban farm animals may also have shared their quarters with the family horse (if the family was wealthy enough to own one or the owner was a tradesman whose livelihood depended on his horse to pull a wagon). The close proximity of back yard barns and houses on small city lots created a tremendous fire hazard. A fire in one barn or house could easily destroy entire city blocks, killing every occupant—human or animal—unable to escape the smoke and flames.
While many horses were employed in farm work, just as many were living in cities where they pulled freight wagons, carriages, streetcars, and hucksters’ wagons. Some of the city horses not living “at home” were housed in stables built side-by-side, taking up entire city blocks. Other barns were 2 and 3 stories tall with ramps leading from the ground floor to the upper levels. These urban barns were interspersed between office buildings, or buildings were constructed flush against each side of the stables. In any case, the only way to evacuate horses whose stalls were on the upper floors was to lead them down the ramps and out either a back or front door. If a fire started on the main floor—at street level—probably the only things saved were the wagons or carriages parked inside. Since smoke rises and those ramps made perfect chimneys, it’s a good bet that in every fire, the horses died of smoke inhalation before the flames even touched the upper floors.
It would be nice to think those unsafe stables were relics of the past, but such is not the case. There are still carriage horses—used as supposed tourist attractions—who are housed in those outdated, exceptionally dangerous structures, in urban centers such as Manhattan, Chicago, and other large cities worldwide. The living conditions of these carriage horses is deplorable and is one of a number of reasons there are active organizations worldwide campaigning to end horse drawn carriages in urban areas. An example of what these horses are subject to on a daily basis can be seen on this video:
For more information about carriage horses,
Police horses are often housed in urban centers but their stables are usually decent facilities that may include some acreage, or at least, paddocks for turnouts. There are still many horses on working farms, particularly here in Ohio where we have large Amish communities. But all over the country you can find horse barns that are constructed on properties with very little acreage. Near Los Angeles, for example, you can see small properties—a quarter acre or less—fenced around the perimeter with the “interior fencing” being the house. The horse could be watching TV with the residents through a picture window! Placing neighboring barns and other outbuildings in relatively close proximity creates a hazard nearly as dangerous as the old city “barnyards.”
For a look at the Cleveland Police Mount Unit, visit: http://www.clevelandmountedpolice.com/history.php
We all know that many animals have died in barn fires and other animal housing facilities. A number of years ago I began keeping a chart of animals killed in fires. I have come to call this chart (see box) my VERY SAD CHART, and I am upset every time I have to add more information to it. My original intent was to see what factors were involved; to find patterns. What I found through keeping this chart was that in almost every instance, animals were dying in preventable fires, and the cost of prevention was very low when compared to economic disruptions when animals died as a result of fire or other disaster. But, economics aside, the emotional toll suffered, not just by owners, but by the firefighters on scene who are subjected to the screams of the dying and the smell of death, can stay with them for the rest of their lives.
My chart lists only those deaths that are reported to the media. Structure Fires in Livestock or Poultry Storage Facilities is a publication of the National Fire Protection Association, which also documents barn fires that are reported to the NFPA. That means that neither the NFPA nor I have complete information. As you can see from the NFPA information and from my chart, where the cause of the fires was known there was almost always a way to prevent the fire from starting or spreading.
Looking at all those facts and figures can be overwhelming in the tragedy they present. I’m glad to say, though, that since 1984, when Appaloosa World editor Jerry Matacale gave me the go-ahead to write an article about fire safety for horse barns, a number of agricultural colleges and a growing number of freelance equine writers have helped to spread the word about fire safety. It’s also encouraging to see more knowledgeable responses in web chat rooms and groups when the topic turns to fire safety.
That’s why this website exists—to provide the basic facts on fire safety in barns and other animal housing facilities, and to keep you up-to-date on fire prevention products and practices. There’s a lot of prevention that can be accomplished for an amazingly small cash outlay, and there is much to be learned from those who fight barn fires and those who, tragically, have been victims of barn fires.
Read Fran Jurga's article, "New York's Fire Horses" on Equisearch.com at:
On this site, you can read articles on a wide range of fire safety topics, download safety checklists and signs, find organizations promoting fire safety and animal well-being, and companies offering fire safety related products.