“WITH BOMBS AND FIRES, YOU ONLY GET ONE MISTAKE.”
We are at the start of the winter fire season here. The last two years has taught a lot of hard lessons and I think we need to be reminded of some safety precautions that can be taken. They are not hard but many times it is simple things that can keep a fire from becoming a personal disaster.
Many years ago I wrote stories for the local newspaper about fire safety and I think I need to point out some things that you can do. When you see pictures of many large fires across the country there is major devastation and in the middle of it all there stands a house, building, or homestead that is untouched. There are many reasons why.
I have seen and responded to several hay yard fires and watched the whole winter inventory of feed be destroyed. I have tried many times to convince farmers and ranchers to not stack all of their feed in the same stack yard. I know it looks efficient and is handy to have it all in one spot but the flip side is that if it catches on fire it is all pretty well lost.
Give yourself and the firefighters a break and adopt some simple practices that give you a chance of saving the whole lot. First by having the hay stacked all in a continuous group or line there is no chance of cutting the flames off from going down the row. At least give some gaps to get hose lines or machine in to stop the progress of the fire. Once bales are started they are virtually impossible to put out.
Location, location, location. What applies to real estate applies here also. The stack yard is vulnerable if it is right next to the road, paved or not. It may be handy but consider a few factors. There are a lot of ditch fires as result of cigarettes and other things that throw sparks. The recent fire that started at the same location of the Anderson Creek fire last week has been attributed to a loose safety chain. The 2016 Anderson Creek Fire was attributed to a ruined steel belted radial tire throwing sparks.
Consider the human factor. We are plagued by would be arsonists who just want to start something burning for fun or just be malicious. A hay yard right next to the road is an open invitation.
Consider the wind factor. Do not line up rows of hay in the prevailing wind. When we get 40 + winds the fire is going to be a wall that will consume whatever is in its path. Don’t line everything up in a direction that will ensure its entire loss.
How about power lines? Do you have overhead power lines going over your feed yard? Sparking power lines have started a lot of fires. If you do have overhead service are the lines old and hardware in poor condition. You might consider putting electrical service underground.
Weeds! Do you let things grow up in weeds? Weeds will burn like a can of gas. Some are very conscious about keeping things neat and orderly. Some just park things and never mow or weed eat. If you have trees growing up through things it may indicate that you are in a real good position for a fire to blow through.
I witnessed a mans whole crop of hay burn up. He took this as a sign from God that he should get out of the cattle business. It may be. But it was also a result of lining up all the hay in one long line and burning the trash can a few feet from the end of it.
A little foresight and a little action could save your hay from total destruction. This will not prevent the extremes but it could keep you from wondering how you are going to feed the cattle for the next 4 months.