farm fires

The resources will help protect you and your farm from fires.

Protect You & Your Farm From Fires

 Barn fires are a farm owner’s worst nightmare. Most have tragic results such as the loss of human life, animals, valuable equipment, or the building itself. There are steps you must take to protect yourself and your farm from fire. The following tips are from the Cornell Small Farms article,  'Managing Risk: Using Heat Lamps on the Farm' by Michael Glos. If you need some help making sure your farm is safe, please contact a member of our agriculture team. We can work together on what would work best to keep you and your farm safe.

To help prevent on-farm fires from heat lamps, here are some recommendations:

  • The best thing is not to use them. An exposed hanging hot bulb that is drying the bedding (tinder) below is always going to be a fire risk. Put in systems for your livestock that do not need the supplemental heat. This may include major paradigm shifts like having lambs later in the spring or using mother hens to raise chicks instead of buying them. We, like most farmers, are not able (or willing) to completely eliminate a need for heat lamps so we must do everything we can to minimize the risk. At a minimum, turn them off as soon as you don’t need them.
  • Don’t use cheap poorly made heat lamps. Throw out all of those hardware store heat lamps. We have tried a half dozen types of heat lamps and have currently settled on one from Premier that costs about $40.00. It is completely enclosed and is said to be able to fall and not cause a fire. It has a thick long cord and the electrical connections are sealed.
  • Use hard glass bulbs–not the thin glass ones. We have switched over to using hard 175w bulbs from Farmerboy Ag. Supply. They are much less likely to shatter and we have developed different types of brooder boxes (for pigs and chickens) that stay warm without the need for a 250w bulb.
  • Secure them like they are permanent. Use chains and not twine. Keep them out of the way of livestock that can disturb them.
  • Upgrade your breaker panel. At the recommendation of an electrician, we installed an “Arc Fault Interrupter” breaker for the circuits in our barns where we have heat lamps connected. Unlike our previous GFI breaker which failed to trip when the fixture sparked, this type of breaker is made to trip. The downside is these breakers cost about $40 instead of $4.00.
  • Use heat lamps in buildings that are isolated from other buildings. For us, this means having small detached brooder buildings for our chickens and a specific building for our sows/piglets. This is much preferred to brooding in our main barn where we store all of our grain, hay, freezers, tools, and other livestock.
  • Put a smoke detector in all buildings with the potential of fire. A really loud one with an external speaker is recommended but a standard battery-operated one with an annually changed battery is a minimum.
  • Have at least one fire extinguisher at the main entrances of all buildings. In our main barn, we have one at each end. We use commercial rechargeable extinguishers and check them annually for a full charge. Learn how to use one and have them clearly marked.
  • Review your insurance policy and make sure you know what coverage you do and don’t have. You may think you have more coverage than you actually do and don’t want any surprises when you really need it. We don’t insure everything but we do ensure what we don’t want to self-insure.

Michael Glos co-owns Kingbird Farm with his wife Karma in Berkshire, NY. He may be reached through his website,

Farm Emergency Response Program

NYCAMH's Farm Emergency Response Program trainings are designed to help farmworkers and farm families learn what to do if they are the first at the scene in an emergency situation on the farm. Through this program, NYCAMH can also provide agricultural hazard awareness level training sessions to fire departments and EMS personnel. These services are available at no cost in English and Spanish.

Topics include:

  • Fire Extinguisher and Fire Safety
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • First Aid and CPR Certification through the American Heart Association
  • Basic First Aid
  • Agricultural Hazard Awareness training for professional responders

Last updated February 11, 2022