Producers of dark fire-cured tobacco can take extra steps to keep barn fires from getting out of control as they fire their 2007 crop, according to officials with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

“As dry as it is in western Kentucky, a barn fire could grow into a wildfire that could do serious damage to a farmer’s property as well as that of his neighbor,” Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said. “I urge all dark fire-cured tobacco growers to act to prevent barn fires and take measures to control a fire before it starts.”

Commissioner Farmer pointed out that local burning restrictions do not apply to traditional agricultural practices such as fire-curing dark tobacco.

Following are tips on preventing and containing a barn fire, most of which are derived from a checklist developed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture:

• Cover support posts and walls inside the barn with metal at a minimum of 3 feet high.

• Doors should be sealed tightly with tin around all cracks to minimize air infiltration.

• Check the barn no more than once a day if possible to keep outside air out of the barn.

• Slab and dust piles should be kept a minimum of 4 feet from the sides of the barn.

• Monitor barn temperatures and maintain at no more than 135 degrees.

• Avoid use of green or unseasoned wood that may burn hotter than normal.

• Close ventilation systems as much as possible to conserve moisture and prevent air infiltration.

• Remove all debris from around barns. If possible, disk around the barn past the collapse zone.

• Keep water and plenty of hose close at hand in case of fire.

• If the barn catches fire, call the local fire department as soon as possible.

For more information, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or your local fire department.