Facing The Unthinkable

We hope you never experience a barn fire, but we learned in the aftermath of this horrible experience it’s quite possible that you may. As we talked to friends about this fire we gradually realized how many of them recounted their own personal experiences. They weren’t describing what happened to a friend of a friend but what they’d gone through themselves.

We expect barn fires, like trailer accidents and bad falls, to happen to other people in other places, something we may hear about while chatting at a party or over the stall partition while braiding at a show. We don’t like to face the possibility that they can happen much closer to home.

Fires ignite and spread much more quickly in a barn than in most other structures, because just about everything that a barn is made of or contains burns easily. Barns have long open aisles and lots of air circulation that can fan flames. Even when help is right there, the loss may be complete.

Everyone who treasures their horses should work to avoid this horror. While a fire that starts with lightning, as this one did, may be harder to prevent, horsemen must be vigilant about other potential causes such as faulty wiring, damp/wet hay, smoking and careless use of electrical appliances.

Attention should also be placed on insurance. Ask yourself if you can afford to replace what you keep in your barn. If not, you need to insure it — not just against fire but also against other types of accidents and against theft.

Some of the best insurance is knowledge and preparation gained in advance. Yes, you have your vet’s number posted on your stall. But is your doctor’s name and number noted anywhere in the barn’ Is the local emergency number — it’s not always 911 — posted by the phone’ Is there even a phone that can be reached easily’

Don’t take it for granted that barn workers and boarders know the right things to do in an emergency. A chance remark in the barn aisle a couple months before this fire may have saved many horses. Someone chatting about barn fires mentioned that it’s desperately important to take the extra moments needed to shut each stall and stable door as the horses are chased out.

This proved crucial when the horses that were driven from the barn tried to flee back in as the fire trucks arrived. Of the 28 horses in the barn, 25 were saved, including the two seen here, with only minor scrapes and no burns. All the tack and equipment, plus the home of the workers who saved the horses, was lost.

Still, this was a remarkable blessing. With barn fires, it’s usually a handful of horses saved rather than a handful lost. We grieved for those three lovely animals and were at the same time profoundly grateful for the presence of brave people who did exactly what was needed to save all the others.

’Til next month,

-Margaret Freeman