Yesterday was an exciting day for the horses--they were turned out after two days of no turnout (due to ice on Sunday, and for unclear reasons on Monday). My husband got this video of them playing shortly after going out. Limerick and Joey had a chance to kick up their heels in the outdoor arena on Monday so they were content to watch the shenanigans from the background. Can you spot Lim's blaze?
Yesterday was also "exciting" for the (human) boarders, and not in a fun way. The barn owner emailed us at around 11am to say there had been a crisis the evening before--the fire alarm in the upper barn began going off. To be safe, the boarders that were present in the upper barn evacuated their horses, checked to be sure the apartments above the barn were clear of residents and called the fire department. It turned out to be nothing more than dust in the fire alarm causing a malfunction. Big sigh of relief!
I admit I wasn't happy for a couple reasons, however. The first being the evacuation. The middle barn (which Lim is stalled in) is attached to the upper barn by a wall, and the lower barn is in turn attached to the middle barn. Both the upper barn and middle barn have haylofts above them. If there was indeed a fire brewing, the middle barn would have caught on very quickly--more quickly than the apartments above the upper barn, in fact. To make matters worse, the horses in the middle barn have no runs attached to their stalls, so they have no way to get outside on their own in case of a fire. All the stalls in both the upper and lower barn have runs. So why were the middle barn horses not evacuated?
Every barn has its own politics and cliques, including boarding barns. In my barn's case, the upper barn boarders often have the upper hand on barn-wide decisions. If not, the upper barn sometimes operates independently of the rest (e.g., boarders in the upper barn decide as a whole to keep their horses inside from turnout, and many upper barn boarders use a different vet than the rest of us). I suppose a part of this may come from the cost of the stalls in that barn, which are slightly higher than the rest of the stalls on the property. Either way, it's never been much of a problem besides a little grumbling here and there--in fact, I like all these boarders as individuals. So yes, it's never been much of a problem until now, in my opinion.
If there was actual smoke and fire, would the middle barn horses have been evacuated? Absolutely--I know that without a doubt. There was no actual smoke or fire in this case, but if the situation was worrisome enough for the fire department to be called and the apartments to be checked, this tells me that people weren't confident in their decision of, "It's probably nothing, so we'll leave the middle barn horses in their stalls." After all, if there was indeed a spark in the hayloft, it would have been a matter of moments--not hours--before the upper barn went up and took the middle barn with it. So why take the risk? Why not evacuate the middle barn as well? There are only 9 stalls in there--it would be easy.
The second reason I'm not happy is because of the timing of the email. The night of the crisis, I went out to feed Limerick at 8:20pm and stayed at the barn until 9pm (closing time). Other than what seemed to be excessive tire marks on the grassy shoulder by the barn (which I rationalized away since it had been muddy that day and the barn tractor is often driven over that area), I didn't see anything out of place. This meant, by my estimation, the crisis occurred between 5pm and 7pm. Therefore, 18 to 15 hours passed before the boarders were notified as a whole, which is far too much time in my opinion. The length of time is especially odd when one considers the fact that my barn tends to be fairly on top of notifications and barn news. Naturally, however, I have no doubt that all the upper barn boarders knew about the crisis--whether they were there or not.
I've been at my boarding barn for a little over 5 years. Limerick is happy there and so am I. Things tend to run smoothly, especially now that another sister from the family has been managing the barn for the past 3 years. But the way this crisis was handled regarding the middle and lower barns is worrisome. Barn fires--whether possible or reality--are nothing to play around with.