SWOX firefighters serious about barn fire prevention
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
That’s what the South-West Oxford Fire and Emergency Services is hoping when it hosts its first barn fire prevention session Friday, Dec. 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Mount Elgin Community Centre.
The South-West Oxford Fire and Emergency Services, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Equine Guelph will jointly host the session.
“It’s a group of likeminded people getting together to talk with farmers, barn owners, animal owners, other fire departments about the best practices for prevention,” said Troy Moffat, a volunteer firefighter and an organizer. “Hopefully with that education, it’ll help with prevention.”
Moffat said South-West Oxford Fire will discuss the causes and prevention of fires, as well as barn safety, the Agriculture Ministry will talk about statistics and trends on how to improve safety, and Equine Guelph will offer online tools.
Despite agriculture being one of Ontario’s main industries, Moffat said he believes it’s the first such prevention session in Ontario. “I didn’t want to wait for someone else to do it, and we had to start somewhere. … We’ve started doing more training with the other fire departments in Oxford County,” he said, noting he hopes to run the sessions at least twice a year. “We think it’s going to work very well for our services.”
They’ll discus prevention and safety measures as well as pre-incident planning and a program called fire placard.
He noted pre-incident planning allows South-West Oxford firefighters to assess barns in case a fire ever occurs, so they can be ready. The fire placard program lets them determine the length of each laneway to the barns.
“We want to know whether it’s a 500-foot driveway or a 1,000-foot driveway. If the first truck arrives and there’s smoke blowing in your face, it makes it very difficult to lay out your water suppression.”
The South-West Oxford department has about 68 volunteer firefighters, Moffat said, with stations in Brownsville, Beachville and Mount Elgin.
He added a barn fire also has a severe economic cost to both the owner and the county.
“It’s their job, so it’s an investment. … In the event of a barn fire, people can lose a lot of revenue and that’s bad for the whole community,” Moffat said.
Though the purpose is to help barn owners increase safety, Moffat said it will also aid in firefighters coming to understand farming and the challenges they may face in a barn fire.
“In the volunteer service, you get people from all walks of life, but not everyone comes from a farming background,” he said. “It’s a way to get everyone together to understand one another.”