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Two horses had a lucky escape last Sunday when they were rescued from a fire that broke out in their stables on a farm in Yorkshire.

Farmer Colin Cartwright led Murphy and Romance to safety after being alerted to the blaze on Sugar Hill Farm in Stockton Lane, York. Fire fighters from York and Selby were called and spent several hours extinguishing the flames.

The fire is thought to have been caused by rodents chewing through electrical cables in the outbuilding where the horses were stabled.

“Rodents chewing through wiring is a fairly common cause of fire in outbuildings and stables,” explains sub-officer Kevin Dockley of Surrey Fire and Rescue. “In order to minimise risk, appliances in these sorts of environments should be kept to a minimum and cabling should be above ground level wherever possible.”

Rats and mice are a common problem in many yards and either traps or the presence of a stable cat are commonly used to control the unwelcome rodent population.

Reduce the risk

Kevin lists misuse of appliances, naked lights and bonfires as other major causes of out-of control fires in stable yards and advises stable owners to take the following precautions to minimise the risk of fire:

  • Keep storage areas and livestock accommodation separate
  • Water hoses and fire extinguishers must be easily accessible and in full working order
  • No naked lights, including cigarettes, allowed in the yard
  • Bonfires should only be lit when absolutely essential, and never close to stables or feed storage areas
  • Minimise electrical equipment
  • Don’t put anything directly on to, or immediately adjacent to, heaters
  • Never use multiple plug adapters
  • Avoid damp hay bales, as these can spontaneously combust – hay and straw stores should be clean, dry and well ventilated
  • Ensure electrics are enclosed and protected against water and rodents
  • Use covered low watt bulbs
  • Keep the muck heap separate from the rest of the yard
  • Install and service smoke detectors
  • Don’t park vehicles near flammable materials, as exhaust fumes may set them alight

According to Kevin, some fires are started in deliberate arson attacks. He advises yard owners to install as many security measures as possible in order to deter potential arsonists.

It is also vital that every yard has a clear procedure to be followed in the event of a fire and hold regular fire drills to ensure everybody working on the yard knows how to react should a real fire break out.