Spate of barn fires have of­fi­cials ask­ing farm­ers to take pre­cau­tions

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - VERON­ICA REINER

A STRING OF RE­CENT barn fires in the province, some of them closer to home, have area fire of­fi­cials urg­ing the farm­ing com­mu­nity to take ex­tra pre­cau­tions when it comes to fire pre­ven­tion.

The an­nounce­ment from Perth fire de­part­ments comes in light of sev­eral barn fires across the province, in­clud­ing one close to home. A re­ported 1,200 pigs per­ished in a $1 mil­lion dol­lar loss in Quinte West on De­cem­ber 11, and sev­eral calves were lost in a barn fire in Wil­mot Town­ship on De­cem­ber 4. There was also a barn fire in Nor­folk County on De­cem­ber 13 that caused an es­ti­mated $6 mil­lion in dam­ages.

Be­tween 2010-2015, $12 mil­lion in dam­ages has re­sulted from barn fires in Perth East alone.

“A sin­gle barn fire has a rip­ple ef­fect in the com­mu­nity,” said Perth East and West Perth fire chief Bill Hunter in a state­ment. “When a fire wipes out your barn, live­stock, crop or equip­ment, you can’t just go to the store and re­place that the next day.

“Some of these fam­i­lies have spent gen­er­a­tions on their breed­ing pro­grams, only to lit­er­ally watch it go up in flames. There are busi­nesses, like feed and sup­ply com­pa­nies, that rely on these farms to be up and run­ning. There is more at stake than just the barn.”

De­spite the colder tem­per­a­tures, ev­ery barn is at risk of a fire no mat­ter the size. With the level of ex­pen­di­ture in­clud­ing live­stock, equip­ment, and crops, fire safety is a rel­a­tively small cost to pay to pro­tect the en­tire liveli­hood of the farm. Hunter high­lighted the im­por­tance of pre­ven­tion.

“There are sim­ple, in­ex­pen­sive steps you can take, like general house­keep­ing and check­ing your wires

and ap­pli­ances on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” said Hunter. “Con­tact your lo­cal fire depart­ment to ar­range a visit. Our staff will come with a ther­mal imag­ing cam­era and tour the build­ings with you to check for hot spots and of­fer fire safety tips. We’ll work with you on a fire safety plan that’s cus­tom­ized to your prop­erty. We don’t charge a fee; we just want a fire-safe farm com­mu­nity.”

Other tips in­clude in­stalling a tem­per­a­ture de­tec­tion sys­tem with a tele­phone alert, keep­ing fire ex­tin­guish­ers in work­ing order across all barn en­trances, clean­ing cob­webs and dust from elec­tri­cal equip­ment, and hav­ing reg­u­lar in­spec­tions by li­censed elec­tri­cians and the lo­cal fire depart­ment.

Wool­wich also of­fers a cus­tom­ized fire safety plan, which can be ac­cessed on the town­ship web­site, www.wool­wich.ca. Those in­ter­ested com­plete an assess­ment form and email it or mail it to the Wool­wich Fire Depart­ment. From there, the depart­ment will re­view the form and sched­ule a visit to the farm to cre­ate a unique safety plan.

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Fire of­fi­cials hope to avoid scenes such as this fire near Mitchell.

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