Tag Archives: pole barn fire

Steel Wrapped Poles & Sprinkler System

Steel wrapped poles

Hansen Pole Buildings Designer Alan came up with a new client concern recently.

Sprinkler System HeadHis client lost his last barn to a fire, so the client’s idea for his new pole barn is to wrap the poles with light gauge steel, in order to keep them from burning. Of course Alan and I both came up with the same solution – at the same time – sprinkler system. The solid wood timber columns, are one of the last things which are going to burn through in a post frame building. Long before they fail, the roof system will have collapsed.

Pole buildings are not only attractive, but are also sustainable, economical and provide fast construction solutions. The assumption can be, because we use wood for fuel, it must therefore burn easily! Burn? Yes.  Easily? Not so much. In reality, wood is selected as fuel because it burns slowly and at a predictable rate. These are the same qualities which make it a safe construction product in the event of fire and should give confidence in pole buildings, as a design solution.

The “charring rate” of a wood structure means the time needed for the wood to be burned through. This can be calculated to determine the safety of a building or how long it will take to burn and weaken its structural integrity. As a result of the thermal properties of wood, this can mean a timber will char on one side yet not even be warm just a fraction of an inch inside. These qualities contrast with the unpredictable nature of other structural products such as steel; which heat up more uniformly and give rise to expansion and loss of strength over the whole section, or masonry which cracks and starts to fall apart. Fire-fighters prefer to enter a burning building made of wood because they are better able to estimate how long they will be able to remain safely inside. Lumber will not fail dramatically like, for instance, reinforced concrete.

Even low density wood species will take 30 minutes to burn through an inch thickness, which will ensure the columns of a post frame building will retain structural integrity for over an hour of exposure to fire.

Still uneasy?  Then consider putting a sprinkler system into your new wood framed building.

For more information click on this link to “read more about it”: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/?s=sprinklers

The Triple Whammy: Hay Storage in a Pole Barn

This story from FOX 47 News in Lansing, Michigan on September 20:

“Strong winds spread a fire from a burning trash pit to a pole barn in Stockbridge Township Wednesday evening.

The Stockbridge Deputy Fire Chief tells us the pit was about 40 feet from the barn. The owner called 911 around 5:45pm when he saw smoke. There were several horses in the barn, all of which escaped.

Some farm equipment stored inside may have been damaged.

Firefighters had to use a backhoe to remove burning hay from the barn before they could put the fire out. Nobody was injured and the fire did not spread to the surrounding corn fields.”

In my humble opinion, the burning of this pole barn had absolutely nothing to do with the pole barn itself, but everything to do with the “Triple Whammy” put on it by the building’s owner.

Whammy number one….having a trash pit for burning within 40 feet from a building to begin with.

Whammy number two….burning in aforementioned trash pit when strong winds were present.

And…the envelope please….Whammy number three….hay storage inside of a barn with animals and farm equipment.

Without the first two whammies, the hay storage alone is an issue. In the above story, winds drove flames into the hay stored within the pole barn. However a bigger risk lies in those stacks of hay.  Lives have been lost and hay crops destroyed because of fires caused by spontaneous combustion. Any time you have hay storage with above 20-25% moisture content, spontaneous combustion may occur.

Hay which is stored when too wet will heat rapidly. If heat loss is restricted, the internal temperature of the bales will rise. As the temperature rises above 130°F, a chemical reaction occurs and may sustain itself. This reaction does not require oxygen, but the flammable gases produced are at a temperature above their ignition point. These gases will ignite when they come in contact with the air.

Besides the obvious (don’t store overly wet hay), it is also prudent to not store hay in the same building with animals and equipment. The premiums paid for fire insurance can be potentially reduced by minimizing the risks.