Posts tagged barns

New Fire Safety for Barns Program

“Building a Farm Fire Safe Community” is a new program that was created because of concerns over the huge loss resulting from fires that have destroyed buildings, animals, vehicles, and equipment in Ontario, Canada. Bill Hunter, Fire Chief  for the Township of Perth East and the Municipality of West Perth, in Ontario, Canada, invites you to learn about their program, which was developed in partnership with the Tradition Mutual Insurance Company, North Waterloo Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, the South Easthope Mutual Insurance Company and the Perth-Huron Insurance Brokers Association. This program is not just for Ontario farms, though. It is adaptable to any farm or stable situation and they are also planning a series of videos that will address farm fire safety topics.  Take a look at this program, especially the excellent self-assessment form available for you to download. You can learn more about the program at the Perth East website at or you can contact Chief Hunter at the fire department at 519-595-2800.

Maite Kropp writing on Animal Deaths in Factory Farms

If 600,000 people died in one year from preventable fires, we would do something about it. The problems is, the 600,000 sentient beings who perished weren’t people, and they couldn’t speak for themselves. Here, Maite Kropp gives them a voice.

Animal deaths in factory fires can be avoided

by Maite Kropp

Published in The Reporter, August 6, 2014

Prevention of tragedy has been a survival behavior of humankind since the beginning of human existence. Not all tragedies can be prevented, especially if they are caused by an “Act of God.” Lately, we have witnessed some very unforgettable tragedies caused by wildfires in many parts of the country due to the severe drought.

Thunderstorms/lightning, parched earth and dry vegetation are a dangerous and deadly combination. When one of these wildfires breaks, a sense of helplessness spreads rapidly among many people, fearing lost life of humans, wild animals, birds, insects, trees and vegetation.

The pain and suffering of all those that perish among the flames and smoke is hard to grasp.

Many wildfires could have been prevented but are not, because of an “Act of Stupidity,” caused by careless, thoughtless individuals with no regard to human or animal life.

Such acts of reckless, abandonment of common decency in respect to life are apparent when businesses involved in factory farming of cattle, pork, birds or egg producers, disregard providing safety for their animals by failing to install fire sprinkler systems and smoke detectors (which is not required by law), in all of their compounds where the animals are enclosed.

This past July 28, a preventable tragedy took the lives of 65,000 confined hens at one of the barns of Egg Innovations, an egg producer in Kosciusko County, Indiana.

It is mind boggling to think that the owners of such a large poultry factory farming business would not have installed the vital sprinkler systems, not only to avoid the scorching, suffering death of the ill-fated birds, but also to prevent business losses.

Perhaps there is a big insurance settlement.

Fire Chief Mike Harmon of Atwood, interviewed by WANE-TV of Fort Wayne stated, “Flames were showing. Probably shooting in the air about 20 feet.”

The issue of deadly fires in the business of factory farming has been addressed steadily for the last two years, thanks to United Poultry Concern, an organization dedicated to the protection of poultry. The goal of its founder, Karen Davis, PhD and many others is to propose a law across the country which will make it illegal not to provide the fire protection systems for these conscious creatures.

It is obvious that Egg Innovations failed to provide this basic security that would have prevented the death of these hens that were four weeks short of becoming egg producers. Currently, the owners of farm animals are not accountable for fires such as this.

As a result, chickens and other factory farmed animals burn alive as taxpayers pay via the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a reimbursement program that helps factory farmers rebuild and restock their facilities.

Egg Innovations advertises itself as a “free range” and “certified humane.”

Those who want to be a bit more informed should check the internet on the meaning of “certified humane” and who its members are.

Most of them are involved in factory style production and the labeling by Egg Innovations is deceptive to those who want to believe that the egg omelet they serve their family on a Sunday morning was produced the way the old farmers used to raise their hens.

For those of you who romanticize about getting your eggs from those old time farmers, the reality is factory farming has made them nearly extinct.

In 2012, 600,000 chickens and turkeys were killed by fires.

The National Fire Protection Association’s data tells that firefighters responded to 830 barn fires per year and the damage is equated to be about $28 million.

This said, NOW is the time to mandate a law that will prevent the death of sentient creatures in fires that CAN be prevented, with insurance premiums remaining accessible to all.

Maite Kropp is the founder of Harmony Kennels Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization that operates a permanent refuge for abused animals. Write her at P.O. Box 5112, Vacaville CA 95696 or e-mail at

Good information about planning for fire safety

Following the loss of eight horses in a barn fire at Gerry Carwood’s barn near Keeneland Racetrack on May 9, 2014, Natalie Voss wrote an excellent article titled “Fire Safety in Barns is All About Planning Ahead” that was published in the May 25, 2014 issue of the Paulick Report.  It will be well worth your time to read it at .


More on Heated Water Buckets

Ryan Rice contacted me with some good information about the electrical aspect of heated water buckets:

“I’ve just read your article on heated buckets for horses in a barn. While I understand the concern about safety and fire hazards, there’s no reason to be worried and not use one. A 5 gallon heated bucket only uses 130 watts, while a 16 gallon bucket still only uses 260 watts. If you get a heating element for a 100 gallon Rubbermaid water bucket you might get up to around 1500 watts, but most people don’t use 100 gallon buckets inside the barn. So, if you have a 15 amp circuit, which is the smallest you could have, the maximum continuous watts would be 1440. As long as properly rated extension cords are used–preferably none–and for extra safety, a GFI outlet, you can keep your horse drinking water all winter.

Dave Vigness’ Heated Water Bucket Project

Although the season for using heated water buckets is just about over, Dave Vigness has a good summer project for you talented, mechanically savvy folks to tackle. Here’s his story:

Whispering Creek Rescue got started in somewhat of a backwards way. We initially contacted a rescue north of us to inquire about a horse, but then the kids got a little older and lost interest and we didn’t go any farther.

A while later we received a call from that rescue inquiring about our need for a horse as they had just rescued almost a hundred horses and didn’t have a place for them all. After a bit of conversation we volunteered our acreage for grazing for a few months. In exchange for allowing grazing for eighteen horses we were allowed to keep two of the rescues. Our first two boys were a yearling and an older abused gelding that has taken us three years to be able to get close enough to even groom.

In doing this we started working with another rescue close to us, and soon realized the joy of horse rescue, but also the amount of work involved. As we came in semi-regularly and were not involved in a lot of the day-to-day operation, we were able to step back and look at both the good and bad of how it was being run. And, as we were going to be starting from scratch we wanted to do things as efficiently and economically as possible.

One of the two most labor intensive daily operations were water and feed. With rescue horses it was quite apparent that feed would be as individual as the horses. Water, on the other hand, was something that I felt could be a whole lot more efficient that hauling hoses and/or buckets around to each stall.

Being in Kansas just SW of Kansas City, I had to take freezing weather into account as well. I did quite a lot of online research into various methods of providing water, both commercial and DIY projects. I found several nice options for keeping large tanks from freezing, and several commercial devices that would be nice, (and also too costly) for an operation just getting off the ground that we were paying for mostly out of our pockets, with almost no donations. Something like a Richie Waterer was out of our budget for the near future.

After looking at both the in-ground concrete waters with a ball float and an in-ground stacked poly barrel system, I was trying to come up with a compromise: something small and inexpensive and yet that would prevent freezing. The five gallon heated buckets were about the right size for our start up operation in carports until we could raise funding for a full size barn, but even some of the small float mechanisms would be accessible to the horses, especially the yearling who had been taught to open or get into anything by a curious mule we had for a few months.

Surprisingly, a change in VISA /MasterCard regulations and a visit to the local carnival a few months later provided me with the solution. I work as an ATM technician to help support the rescue, and a recent change in regulations had given me a surplus of small convenience store ATM’s that couldn’t be upgraded and were sitting around for the next trip to the scrap yard. About that time we had a small carnival at the local park, and watching the dunk tank set-up I noticed a small valve in the bottom to keep the tank full. After looking at it for a while I finally realized what it was! A small diaphragm toilet valve! It was at that point that it all came together; the valve, the bucket, and the old ATM cabinets.

I looked at heated 5 gallon buckets almost exclusively after a local story of a horse being electrocuted after biting an exposed heater in the bottom of a small trough. It had bitten or cracked the heater during the summer months when it was not in use, and was then electrocuted when it went to drink when the heater was turned on in the fall. In researching the heated buckets I found that most, but not all, were thermostatically controlled. That was a must as there was always the chance of a water problem and I didn’t want to take a chance of a horse getting burnt or a bucket melting if the water level wasn’t maintained. Second was the way the handle was attached to the bucket. Some buckets have a large “button” on the side that the handle attaches to and would not allow the bucket to sit down flush in whatever cabinet you choose to set it in. Others, and the style I was looking for, have the handle attached so as to remain under the lip of the bucket, allowing it to sit down flush. In addition, the handle that has the “nub” that follows the pail pour spout also acts as a bit of sorts. When the yearling tried to pick it up out of the stand, he did not appreciate that. . . .

Almost all heated buckets are one shell inside another to protect the heat element. Part of the reason for choosing the heated bucket is the style of heater. Unlike a drop-in element that can get VERY hot, heated buckets use a version of what is on the back window of your car—a long, insulated low wattage heat element wire is run back and forth like the one on your car window, but on a piece of adhesive foil. That foil and wire is then applied to the outer surface of the bucket with a gap in the back and forth runs on the flat back side, where the back of the bucket might be flush against another surface and concentrating the heat on what would be the exposed surface. With the heat dispersed to the point that even in the coldest months it was warm and not hot to the touch I was able to move on from the “keep them from freezing” side of the labor savings, to the “keeping them full” side of the labor savings.

As I mentioned earlier, the heat wrap was primarily on the outer curved portion of the bucket. I know this because in trying to figure out how to mount a fill valve in the bucket I first put it upside down over a 100W bulb and tried to see where the element was. As I said, it was on foil so while I could see kind of where it was at, I just had to give in to my guy urges and take it apart (and yes, that’s exactly what she said, too). After verifying that the bottom of the bucket and approximately 90% of the flat back was free of elements (there was some foil overlap on the back I’m assuming for attaching, but no actual elements ), I began making an automatically- filling heated water station.

One note on the small diaphragm fill valves. I picked mine up at a local farm and ranch store back in the livestock area. When I went to another store to get more for more buckets later, I found that not every store carried them for livestock waterers. After looking at the difference between the ones in the livestock area and the ones on the shelves by the toilet repair section, I discovered the two minor, but useable, differences. On the livestock version, the little tip that feeds up to the overflow tube to keep positive flow in the bowl is left sealed off, and openings are placed along the side seam to allow that water to assist in filling the bucket. I have used both almost interchangeably. The toilet version can be either mounted in the side wall and the tube left off the overflow outlet, or mounted in the bottom as the livestock version and a short section of tube put in place and a zip tie can be used on the tube clip to fasten it to diaphragm area. We only had the curious yearling pull the hose off once. It squirted water straight up his nose! I’m not sure what he was madder at, getting the water up his nose or us laughing uncontrollably at the squeal he made when it happened.

The valve installation was pretty straight forward after a little experimentation. Naturally, I started with a pair of totes from the dollar store to emulate the nested heated buckets to make sure I had it down before I started drilling into expensive buckets. Here it is in a nutshell:

1. Place the valve in the approximate position you want to mount it inside the bucket and mark with a Sharpie pen.

2. Drill a hole at the mark with the same size drill as the pilot bit on your hole saw.

3. From the outside, VERY SLOWLY drill a hole with the hole saw in the OUTER bucket to allow you to get your fingers   around the nut that will fasten the valve to the inner bucket. I used a 2 ½” but that is
just the size I had available. MAKE SURE IT IS THE OUTER SHELL ONLY

4. In the inner bucket drill the hole to mount the valve. You can use either a hole saw or a unibit. I
drilled a 1 1/8” hole with the unibit I used to make knock-out holes for ¾” conduit.

5. Mount the valve using the supplied spacer on the outside to compensate for the difference between the
thickness of the plastic bucket vs. a porcelain tank.

6. Mount into your choice of stand and connect with standard plumbing connections. NOTE: the livestock
versions of the valve also come with an adapter to connect to a garden hose fitting as well as standard plumbing fittings.

Water bucket 9 Water bucket 7 Water bucket 6 Water bucket 5 Water bucket 3 Water bucket 2 Water bucket 1

Water bucket 8

The stand portion of the water station was pretty straight forward. I originally was looking at picking up some short pieces of old culvert from the local dump or DOT. I didn’t care about the condition except they be solid enough to take a kick or two and be at least 4’ long. I originally was thinking about 30 or 55 gallon barrels stacked, but as I lacked the skills to weld them together to get the necessary height to allow for approximately 2’ sticking up out of the ground and at least 2’ into the ground to get below our local freeze line, that was not an option for me. This is where my old ATM cabinets came into use. They were the right height and had the bonus of having an access door already built in. After stripping the cabinets I simply traced the outline of the bucket on the top and then cut inside the line to support the bucket. In my case that was about ½” to ¾”. I flipped it over and cut an access hole for two conduits, a small one to pull an extension cord through, and a larger one to pull a ½” water line through. I recommend poly or PEX just in case it gets near freezing and allows you to use a shark bite type valve to make connections easier.

Then it was just a matter of digging the hole (also know as entertaining the horses), and trenching in the two conduits. On the electric side I purchased an extension cord, 14 gauge minimum, 12 gauge preferred, to feed power out. I ran the extension cord out for the approximate length and then cut the FEMALE end off, leaving the male (pronged ) end in place. Once pulled through, I wired a duplex outlet on the end in a plastic box instead of a replacement cord end. This gave me the ability of plugging the bucket in, and having a place to plug in a thermo cube and additional light bulb for heat down in the cabinet around the water lines if it was needed.

A tip for those not accustomed to wiring stranded wire under screw terminals: instead of stripping the end to put it under the terminal as you would with solid wire, back up the wire an inch and a half like you are going to strip it back, but then, only pull the insulation down just enough to go around the screw terminal. That leaves a “pigtail” of insulation to keep the strands together! Just make sure you don’t have any little strands of wire that slide down with the insulation to cause any problems.

I have been asked several times about using heated buckets being dangerous. My first question back is, are they talking about a bucket with a heater in it or a heated bucket? That usually gets a curious face and gets them thinking about their own question. I explain it to them like this. Comparing a bucket with a heater in it and a heated bucket is like comparing a red hot needle to a pan of room temperature water. One is hot, the other has heat. Sometimes I get some sputters until I ask them to check with the local high school science class students if they don’t believe me. . . and a few actually do!

NOTE: If you have questions about this project, Dave Vigness will be happy to talk to you. His email address is . If you’d like to help Dave reach his goal of building a barn for his rescued horses, I’m sure he’ll be delighted with, and most appreciative, of any contributions to his barn-building fund.

Info from Fire Safety Expert Irvin Lichtenstein

Irvin Lichtenstein sent a Letter to the Editor of The Horse that was published in the June, 2012 issue, regarding an article, “Healthful Barns.” Mr. Lichtenstein signed the letter as Chief of Operations, Southeast Pennsylvania Search and Rescue, however, his experience over more than 40 years in the fire service is tremendous, so I’m delighted that he’s given his permission for me to reprint his letter, as follows, because his expert knowledge is so important to share:

             “The article on page 50 of the May 2012 issue, “Healthful Barns,” leaves out the most important safety factors for horses in barns. In much of the country barns are not subject to building codes or inspection. This means that there is no guarantee that the structure will withstand high winds, snow loads, impacts, floods, or fire.

            Barns are often huge lumber yards storing highly flammable bedding, feeds, and dusts. The lack of fixed fire detection and suppression systems frequently leads to disasters. When building a large barn, the added cost of thses systems is usually under $4 per square foot for both detectors and sprinklers. If you have an arena dust spray system, you already have the water supply for fire sprinklers. Also, when building a barn, build it to human occupancy standards; if there is no local code you can specify NFPA 150 or a similar best practice. And maintain the systems and good practices. Don’t put anything in a barn that doesn’t belong there.

            Practice your response to an emergency until it becomes automatic, not panic.”