Only a fraction of stable fires are caused by arson. The majority are accidental – with all that wood, hay and straw around, no yard will ever be fire resistant.

However, you can keep the risk of accidental fire to a minimum by ensuring your yard carries out these straightforward and common sense preventative measures:

  • Install smoke detector alarms and service them regularly
  • Ensure that fire extinguishers work and are easily accessible
  • A hose pipe, ideally attached to a reel, should be left permanently connected to the mains water supply. It should be long enough to reach all the buildings and be regularly tested for leaks
  • Display ‘no smoking’ signs in prominent places and ensure they’re enforced
  • Make sure everyone on the yard knows the fire drill. If you haven’t practised one for a while, set a date now. The best time is when new staff or liveries join the yard
  • Keep your yard’s exits free from obstruction at all times
  • Store hay, straw and muck heaps a safe distance from stables
  • Sweep up odd strands of hay and straw before the farrier arrives – otherwise a spark could ignite them
  • If you padlock gates or entrances, make sure everyone knowswhere the spare key or keys are kept in case of an emergency.
  • NEVER allow bonfires or fireworks near barns and stables – sparks can be carried a fair distance by the wind
  • Have emergency lighting fitted, if possible. Otherwise, keep heavy-duty torches and unused batteries in an obvious place
  • Fit a modern electricity system, fuse box and circuit breakers
  • All cabling should be PVC-covered and waterproof, and kept away from horses
  • If inflammable materials like petrol, paint or paraffin must be stored on the premises, make sure they are housed as far away from the yard as possible. Leaving them in passageways or adjoining stables increases the risk of spontaneous combustion
  • If there is no telephone line into your yard, make arrangements for a mobile phone to be kept close at hand – and make sure it’s battery is charged at all times
  • Switches should be water-tight and located outside stables
  • Locate master switch panels, transformers, meters and trip switches in a separate building or in a horse- and waterproof cabinet
  • Make weekly checks for visible signs of plugs and sockets overheating, loose wires in plugs, cracked plugs and frayed leads
  • Inspect electrical items, such as clippers, for safety before use
  • When in use, coiled electrical cables create a lot of heat. Don’t allow themto lie in bedding in case short-circuiting occurs.

Don’t forget

  • Always keep a headcollar and leadrope close to stabled horses so that the horse can be evacuated safely in the case of a fire.
  • Unless there is no alternative, NEVER turn horses loose into the yard. This will cause them to panic further, hindering evacuation and preventing firefighters from tackling the fire effectively. There is also the risk that loose horses could get out on to a road and pose a danger to road users.
  • Think about covering stables and outbuildings in intumescent paint which will delay the spread of fire.
  • Proprietors of riding schools are required by law to display official ‘Fire Exit’ signs.
  • If you keep your horse on a small yard used for ‘domestic’ purposes and would like advice on fire prevention, contact your local community fire safety officer.
  • The British Horse Society (BHS) produces a leaflet, Stable Fires, which includes helpful hints and tips on making your yard a safer place. It is available by sending an SAE to: The BHS, Stoneleigh Deer Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 2XZ.

In the event of a fire

  • Try to stay calm and focused – if you’re not thinking clearly, your judgement is likely to be affected.
  • Assess the situation. If you think you can contain the fire yourself, tackle it with hoses, buckets of water and fire extinguishers. If the fire is beyond your control, dial 999 immediately. Give the Fire Service the name and address of the yard and the telephone number you are calling from. Don’t attempt to fight an established fire on your own.
  • Lead the horses closest to the fire into a secure field away from the scene. A jacket, old sack or lightweight rug placed over a horse’s face as a blindfold may help to stem his fear. But don’t waste time fitting it.
  • Working progressively away from the fire, ensure all the horses have been removed.
  • If it is safe to do so and there are no people or animals inside, contain the seat of the fire by shutting all doors and windows.
  • Shut all stable doors for two reasons: Firstly, to prevent frightened horses returning to take refuge; and secondly, to help contain the fire.