Methane Fires and Explosions in Livestock Facilities

Issue 6 and Volume 165.

BY WILLIAM R. FULTON Methane fires and explosions are grow-ing issues for rural firefighters with livestock confinement facilities in their response area (photo 1). They occur when a thick foam forms on the surface of the manure in holding pits below the facility. The foam is a concern to firefighters because the bubbles in this foam are filled with a combination of manure pit gases, including methane, a major concern relative to fire and explosion. The foaming problem cannot be traced to one cause. It develops in the deep manure pits in large quantities, sometimes more than four feet thick, and can push through the building’s slatted floor (photo 2).1 A number of major universities in the Midwest are researching this foam-generation issue. (1) A typical swine facility at which these fires occur. (Photos courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension unless otherwise noted.) (2) Foam rising through the flooring.…

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