Be proactive to prevent wildland fire from affecting your farm

The winter months are a good time to host local fire departments on your farm to plan ahead.

Winter month activities on a farm usually include making repairs to equipment, planning for the year’s crop and livestock, and general preparing for the busy season that begins with the warmer weather of spring. It is also a good time to evaluate the defensibility of your property in the event of a wild land fire.

Wildfires are common in Michigan, with over 10,000 wildfires annually. Most remain small, thanks to the quick work of our local, county, state and federal firefighters. In some cases, wildfires do grow to be of considerable size, rapidly burning across many properties before finally being squelched. During a wildfire event, there is rarely time to prepare your property. This means the safety of your livestock, structures, equipment and infrastructure must rely on preparations already in place.

Fire management plan for the farm

Preplanning for a wildfire event is essential to protecting your property. Michigan State University Extension has prepared a Firewise on the Farm brochure that provides an outline of what you should consider when creating a fire management plan for your farm. The act of creating a fire management plan reveals the fire risks that affect and occur on your property, allowing you to define prevention and mitigation measures.

Work with your local, county and state firefighters to create your plan

Intense wildfire events result in challenging situations for firefighters and their equipment as they try to limit losses while putting the fire out. Often when windy conditions prevail, smoke fills the sky blacking out the sun and changing conditions result in firefighters moving quickly from one place to another. To increase the efficiency with which firefighters may assist you and your property during a wildfire event, invite your local, county and DNR firefighters to your property for a pre-planning session. Doing so will increase their familiarity with your property, and also provide you next steps in creating a more fire safe farm.

Important items to cover during a pre-planning session

Below is a list of suggested talking points for a pre-planning session. It is a good idea to check with your insurance carrier to prior to the pre-planning session to find out if they have recommendations of additional topics to cover.

The roads: Firefighters will want to look at the layout of the property, identifying how to most quickly get on, travel around and to leave the property.

Water sources: Firefighters can identify water sources available, in the form of plumbing or standing water. If you do have standing water that can be siphoned up by a tanker truck, be sure there is a solid area near the water’s edge that can support heavy machinery.

Chemicals: A list of chemicals, their MSDS information and storage protocols should be provided to firefighters. In addition, all chemical storage should be accompanied by signage posted on the outside of the structure.

Livestock and trailers: The location as well as number of livestock and available trailers is important considerations for both you and firefighters visiting your property during a wildfire or more localized farm fire event.

Soft soil/hazards: Be sure firefighters are aware of underground storage, soft soil and other hazards that exist on the property.

Covering these topics with firefighters will increase their familiarity and ease with which they can move about the property in the event of a fire. The session will also give you a list of things to improve upon to increase the safety of both the firefighters and the infrastructure on the farm. Contact your local fire department today to learn more about setting up a pre-planning session.

Please note that on December 31, 2014 MSU Extension Firewise funding came to a close. While Firewise materials will still be available at the Wildfire and Firewise webpage, the majority of outreach and education activities will be phased out. Michigan’s DNR also maintains a Wildfire Protection and Information webpage. If you are interested in learning more about Firewise you may contact the author, Julie Crick at or at 989-275-7179 for additional resources and contacts.

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