SWOX fire­fight­ers se­ri­ous about barn fire pre­ven­tion

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG COL­GAN

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.”

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