Fighting Fire Risk at Your Craft Brewery

Did you know that fire is one of the top three losses a brewery can experience, based on severity?
That’s a fact that carries more weight than ever. Why?

Because this year is predicted to be a banner year for wildfire. Most states in the West are experiencing extreme or exceptional drought according to the US Drought Monitor. From January 1 to June 17, 2021 there were about 28,200 wildfires, compared with 21,737 in the same period in 2020, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Does that mean it’s too late to take steps to prevent wildfire at your brewery this season? Absolutely not.

“It’s never too late to take preventive measures,” says Kristian Beall, AAI, of Beall Brewery Insurance, which works with craft breweries at all stages of development all across the country. “Even though wildfire season is underway, it’s a fact that wildfires happen year-round — and protecting your brewery doesn’t have to be complicated.”

How can you protect your craft brewery from wildfire?

Inside the brewery:

  • Make sure smoke detectors have fresh batteries, and fire extinguishers are ready to use.
  • Invest in a fire-resistant safe to store important documents.
  • Establish an inspection schedule to control fire risk within the brewery. (Make sure to schedule the first inspection soon — especially if it’s been a while since your last one!)
  • Properly label and store all chemicals, and store all other supplies in a way that minimizes risk of fire.
  • Train brewery staff in fire safety procedures. They should know the locations of fire alarms and fire extinguishers, as well as how to use extinguishers.
  • Test the brewery’s fire alarm system and sprinkler system regularly.
  • Hold fire drills.

Outside the brewery:

  • Clear brewery roof and gutters of debris.
  • Remove any dead plants, trees, branches, or debris from your brewery property.
  • Clear branches that extend over the roof or within six feet of the brewery.
  • Ensure that you water your landscaping adequately.

“Many people consider wildfire a seasonal risk, but the reality is that every brewery faces fire risk every single day of the year,” points out Richard Beall, principal of Beall Brewery Insurance.

“There’s hot machinery, power tools, gas-powered vehicles and gas-fed flames, and loads of packaging material and paper- work. Think about it: any craft brewery has plenty of fodder for an accidental craft brewery fire.”

One particular craft brewery fire danger can be found near the mill and in the dry ingredients storage area.

In the wrong conditions, dust from grain or sugar used in brewing beer can combust into a flash fire or fireball. Once the solids are mixed with water in the mash tun, the potential danger usually dissipates because the dust is no longer suspended in the air; but during storage, transfer to the mill, and grinding, the accumulation of dust can grow to a substantial enough level that, if exposed to an ignition source — like hot equipment — while it is suspended in air, it can ignite.

That’s not all: if the fireball is created in a confined space, the pressure can build to a high enough level that the resulting explosion can rupture equipment or even the walls of the building.

Reducing the risk of fireballs means reducing dust accumulation in the brewery. And that means regular dust inspections throughout the brewery, scheduling dust clean-up in storage areas and close to the mill, and considering installation of a dust accumulation system.

“All that is on top of regular fire-prevention steps such as testing the fire alarm and sprinkler systems regularly, training staff how to use fire extinguishers, and holding fire drills,” adds Kristian Beall.

Be sure your brewery’s insurance policy includes ample fire coverage, and remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a keg of great craft beer.

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