Stock photo of a horse farm, where–as far as we know–no manure pile fires have ever occurred.
We talk a lot about summer hazards at the barn during this time of year, but we’re usually thinking about the potential for heat exhaustion in horses and riders, the annoyance of flies, or the effects of hot, dry weather on pastures. That weather can lead to another hazard we really haven’t spent any time at all talking about at all: Spontaneous combustion.
The same effect was most likely at work when a manure pile at a farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York spontaneously combusted on July 5. In this case, the heat produced within the large muck pile was exacerbated by the hot, dry weather.
According to The Associated Press, this wasn’t the first time the farm in question had dealt with manure pile fires. The July 5 incident in particular caught the attention of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation because neighbors complained of the smell. The AP also reports that it took three fire departments two hours to end the blaze. The article does not report the name of the farm or whether there was any damage due to the fire.
Is your muck pile at risk of spontaneously combusting? Probably not unless it gets really big and the weather allows it to dry out. Spreading your farm’s manure or having it removed periodically will prevent combustion conditions from occurring. Manure, used bedding and old hay can also be composted; when done correctly, the pile will be kept moist and aerated which will prevent combustion.