Case Study: Whispering Pines Riding Club Inspection

Several years ago Fire Inspector Debbi Hudson contacted me about a controversy she was involved in regarding installation of refrigerators and household fans in a 28-stall barn.  She did not support electrical appliances being left on unattended.  Her problem, however, was that she couldn’t find anything in the Fire Codes that she could use to uphold her view.  The existing Standard NFPA 150 Fire Safety in Racetrack Stables did not provide an answer.  Of the 13 owners in the barn, all but one agreed on the issue, and the one opposed wanted to see something in writing that ruled out appliances.  Debbi asked me if I could “assist.”

I agreed.  Debbi emailed me back immediately asking permission to quote me (to which I readily agreed), but she gave me additional information: there were two refrigerators in question, neither one of which would be used in a home because they had broken seals and the wiring was in poor condition.  After checking the NFPA electrical codes I was able to tell Debbi that in order to use those refrigerators in any agricultural building they would have to be reconditioned, rewired, and grounded, so the best bet was to ditch the old refrigerators and have a new one installed in another building.  If a refrigerator was necessary for the safekeeping of medications, that would be a consideration in placing it in the stall area, but if it was only going to be used for the convenience of riders, install it elsewhere—the safety factor outweighed keeping pop, people snacks, and horse carrots cold. I agreed with Debbi that electrical appliances (unless they have been hard-wired in by a licensed electrician) should not be unattended in a barn. And we also agreed that agricultural grade box fans (where the motor is sealed, as opposed to the box fans we use in a house) were certainly appropriate as long as they did not require an extension cord to reach an outlet.  As for the refrigerator, I assumed it would be installed in a feed room or tack room or other non-stall area.  Debbi had some other problems with this barn, and I was delighted when I received this email a few weeks later:  “Hi Laurie, I do want to thank you for your help with the stables. The problem children are still squabbling over rules they don’t like, however the fire chief backed me and at least there are NO appliances allowed in the barn. Not only that, but they must do what the fire department recommends, regulation or not.  Let me tell you, that was a hard fought battle.  I shall share some pictures I took and attach them so you can see how dreadful the situation was. Your personal insight and support helped me a great deal!  Sometimes when I am up against a crowd I start to doubt myself…thanks again.  Debbi”  Here are the photos she sent me—the fire safety violations are fairly obvious.  How many can you see?  Do you have similar “areas” in your barn?