Farm, Ranch & Fire Prevention
Part 1 – Simple Steps for Fire Prevention
In terms of forest fires, the summer of 2016 was tough for those living in northern Alberta. “The fire spread across approximately 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) before it was declared to be under control on July 5, 2016.” 
While damages to Fort McMurray itself, work camps and surrounding boreal forest were extensive, losses in terms of agriculture were not substantial as the areas affected were not primarily agricultural in purpose. However, the fires in Southern and Central Alberta in the summer of 2017, have had an impact on both farming and ranching. Extremely dry conditions set the stage for the commencement and growth of fires in several areas across Southern and Central Alberta – both prime agricultural regions.
Farming and ranching aren’t without their dangers – even under the best of environmental conditions, but in a dry year it is important to keep vigilant. Agricultural fires tend to be more costly than other industrial fires because not only is property and equipment affected, so too are crops and livestock – the combination increases the commercial value.
While there is not much that can be done about Mother Nature, we can at least be sure that we take measures to reduce the risk of fire on farm and ranch.
Fire Prevention Measures:
No Smoking. One of the most preventable causes of fires is the haphazard extinguishing or “flicking” of cigarette butts. Provide safe and dedicated receptacles for butts at designated areas. Be sure staff, seasonal workers and family are aware that using them is non-negotiable and smoking bans apply everywhere else – around combustible materials, in barns etc. Post “No Smoking” signs.
Remove. Familiarity can minimize our ability to observe the obvious. Be on the look-out for potential fire hazards and remove them whenever possible. If a particular hazard can’t be removed, take necessary steps to mitigate fire risk associated with it.
Education. Teach staff, seasonal employees and family members to be safety conscious and mindful of fire risk. Be sure everyone knows where the fire extinguishers are. Conduct fire drills which include various scenarios. Come up with a plan of action in the event of a fire and be sure staff and family know what to do.
Equipment. Be sure fire extinguishers, fire and smoke alarms are in proper working order. Some operations my require the installation of warning systems or water sprinklers in barns or processing facilities.
Safety First. Employ safe housekeeping practices. Be intentional so that it will be a habit during busy harvest and planting season. Put tools, supplies and equipment away properly. Maintain aisles, walkways, entrances and exits free of clutter and obstructions. Inspect mechanized equipment on a regular basis to ensure things are in proper working order.
The Fire Department. Maintain a good relationship with your local fire department – in the event of an incident you will be glad that you did. Try to ensure adequate water supply is available. Keep an updated list of hazardous materials that are stored on your property.
Fire is just one of the factors that can threaten the productivity and prosperity of a farm, but it is a threat that we have some measure of control over. Part 2 of Farm, Ranch & Fire will look at other practices and strategies that can be employed to further fire prevention management on farm and ranch.
Contact Barr Ag to get more information on any of our crops including Alfalfa, Timothy, Mixed Hay, Canadian Grains and Pulse crops.