Fighting a ter­ri­ble toll

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA BROADLEY

Two fires — one in St. Thomas at a home where a man died, and an­other on a farm in Malahide , left, where a barn went up in flames at an es­ti­mated loss of up to $3 mil­lion, are be­ing probed by in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The hay har­vest was in, the barn was filled. Then the fire hit. In­ves­ti­ga­tors are prob­ing a blaze that de­stroyed a barn in Malahide, in El­gin County, the loss es­ti­mated at up to $3 mil­lion. Fire­fight­ers from five mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were still at the scene early Fri­day, with crews ex­pected to re­main into Satur­day, af­ter the fire broke out the night be­fore on Vi­enna Line in Malahide, con­sum­ing the barn filled with 4,000 hay bales from the har­vest weeks ear­lier. “(The farmer) had just fin­ished har­vest two to three weeks ago, so it was filled lit­er­ally right to the top,” said Randy Loewen, district chief of Malahide Sta­tion 2.

Losses from barn fires in On­tario av­er­age more than $25 mil­lion a year, fig­ures from the On­tario Fire Mar­shal’s Of­fice show.

An On­tario group, the Barn Fire Risk Re­duc­tion ad­vi­sory panel, made up of farm and fire or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing from South­west­ern On­tario, is work­ing to re­duce the toll of barn fires in the province with a spe­cial awar­ness cam­paign fo­cused on pre­ven­tive mea­sures, in­clud­ing keep­ing elec­tri­cal sys­tems — of­ten the source of such fires — in top con­di­tion. Fire­fight­ers from Malahide, Bay­ham, Brownsville, Cen­tral El­gin and South­wold bat­tled the blze.

“When we got here it was fully en­gulfed, front to back,” Loewen said. “We have no idea what started this. It’s un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ob­vi­ously it’s go­ing to be a very tough in­ves­ti­ga­tion. (The) fire mar­shal has been called just be­cause of the value of the con­tent.”

The cause of many barn fires can be traced to de­te­ri­o­rated elec­tri­cal sys­tems, in­clud­ing cor­ro­sion of re­cep­ta­cles and plugs on equip­ment such as heat lamps and wall fans, the ad­vi­sory group has found.

The farm owner de­clined com­ment.

LAURA BROADLEY/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

LAURA BROADLEY/TIMES-JOUR­NAL

There were 4,000 hay bales in a barn that caught fire late Thurs­day night as the farmer had fin­ished his har­vest just weeks be­fore the blaze.

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