How to Protect Your Farm or Ranch from Wildfires

May 22, 2023 2 min read

More than 66,000 fires burned 7.5 million acres in 2022 alone, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. And while wildfires are a concern for all, people who own a farm or a ranch have a lot to protect — from your residence and equipment to your livestock and horses. While wildfires can occur at any time of the year, most fires on farms occur during the dormant season or during periods of drought.

Wildfires affect agriculture operations in unique ways that typically do not apply to urban homeowners and neighborhoods. For example, farmers and ranchers may have multiple buildings, haystacks, fuel storage tanks, livestock, limited water access and distant fire departments. Often starting small and unnoticed, wildfires spread very quickly, making them especially dangerous. Here’s what to do before, during and after a wildfire.

Before a Wildfire: Preparation

Perhaps the very best step you can take to help protect your farm or ranch from fires is to take the time to prepare. Here’s how to ready yourself, your employees and your property for wildfire season.

Protect Your Land

  • Create and maintain fire guards around pastures.
  • Create noncombustible areas around spaces where equipment, fuel and hay are stored.
  • Check your water supply and add a supply if needed, such as an irrigation ditch or pond.
  • Create and keep a safety plan. Your farm plan should include things like an evacuation and emergency plan and having an emergency supply kit on hand.

Protect Your Barn and Other Structures

  • Install and maintain smoke detectors.
  • Keep barns and other structures free of trash and combustible material.
  • Place fire extinguishers in all structures and equipment and check them regularly.
  • Use approved fire doors on buildings.
  • Keep above-ground fuel storage tanks a minimum of 40 feet from buildings.

Protect Your Animals

  • Create an evacuation plan for all animals and create an area where you can move them if necessary.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

  • Your local Farm Bureau Financial Services agent can confirm that the coverage you have in place will protect you in case of a wildfire.

During a Wildfire: Staying Safe

If a wildfire approaches your farm or ranch, always remember that human life is the top priority; property comes second. 

Protect Yourself

  • If you are trapped in a burning barn or building, focus on getting out quickly but safely.
  • Stay as low to the ground as possible and cover your mouth with your shirt or another clean cloth to mitigate smoke inhalation.
  • Close doors after escaping rooms to slow the spread of fire.
  • If smoke is pouring in the room at the bottom of the door, and the door feels hot, keep it closed. Open a window to escape or for fresh air while awaiting rescue.

Protect Your Animals

  • If a wildfire approaches, evacuate your livestock early — before or during the voluntary evacuation phase, if possible.
  • Be prepared to prioritize what to save. When firefighters arrive, they may ask whether to save livestock, machinery or feed first.

After a Wildfire

Conditions are still hazardous even after the fire has been extinguished, so proceed with caution.

Protect Yourself

  • Don’t enter any damaged buildings until authorities give you the go-ahead.
  • Wear protective gear — a hard hat, respirator, steel-toed boots and gloves — when entering contaminated areas or damaged buildings.
  • Turn off the electrical power and other utilities until a safety inspection is performed.

Protect Your Animals

  • Examine all animals exposed to wildfire smoke, heat or burns. You may need to spray them down with cool water to help them recover.
  • Keep livestock away from any food or water that may have been contaminated.

Protect Your Investment

  • Take pictures of all damage.
  • Make an inventory of all damaged structures, supplies, equipment and machinery. 
  • Save receipts for expenses relating to fire loss.

Stay Informed

Keep yourself up to date on changes in conditions in your area. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a fire weather watch when dangerous fire weather conditions could occur over the upcoming 12 to 72 hours. 

Get Ready

Being prepared is the first step to take to protect your farm and ranch from a wildfire. Reach out to your local Farm Bureau agent to make sure you have the coverage you need in the event of the unexpected.

Want to learn more?

Contact a local FBFS agent or advisor for answers personalized to you.