Barn Fires – There’s No Excuse For Failing To Implement Common Sense Initiatives


Horse-Barns-Fire-4Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In the last few months several devastating fires have made the news across Canada.   For anyone who owns horses or manages farms, it’s terrifying to hear of a barn fire.  Recently, we’ve all seen the horrifying aftermath of barn fires that killed 40 standardbred horses,  13 arabian horses, hundreds of chickens, milking goats, cows and in one fire alone – over 2,000 pigs in the news.  Sadly, such tragedies are neither unexpected nor sufficiently shocking to alter the low standards of care permitted for these sentient, intelligent creatures. The horrific deaths of all these animals has callously been referenced in terms of “tonnage” in news articles.

There is a well-developed body of knowledge about preventing fires.  The most obvious solution is to install sprinkler systems, which typically make all buildings safer.  So why is there so much resistance by farms and agricultural businesses?  The principal reason is that it is very difficult to install sprinkler systems in non-heated buildings or farms that rely on a well water system.  In unheated buildings, pipes freeze in winter, and water pressure may not be sufficient to sustain water flow to sprinklers.  The majority of barns will likely never have fire sprinklers, so it falls upon us as animal owners,  farm owners,  or boarders on farms to ensure we can mitigate risk as much as possible.

The Office of the Fire Marshal manages a database of all fire occurrences in Ontario.  Analysis of occurrences has shown that the sources of many fires remain undetermined due to complete destruction of the buildings, but there are three leading causes of identifiable farm fires:

Source – OMAFRA

Mechanical/electrical failure

  • short circuit or ground fault in electrical equipment
  • failure of the built-in automatic controls in mechanical equipment or system

Misuse of ignition source or igniting equipment

  • careless smoking, or smoking where flammable vapours are present
  • ignition source left unattended
  • improper use of extension cords (e.g. overloaded circuit, multiple strings in sequence)
  • A commonly reported cause of fires in farm buildings is the misuse of equipment (i.e. arc welders, cutting torches or grinders) in the presence of combustible materials or gases without the proper safeguards.
  • Fires reported in this group reflect human error and are preventable with best practice operating procedures

Design, construction or maintenance deficiency

  • improperly constructed building feature or system
  • improperly installed object such as a heating appliance that is too close to combustible building features
  • improper maintenance such as failure to remove accumulation of combustible dust or debris, which is then ignited by heating appliances, process equipment or electrical equipment
  • faulty product design causes a fire even when the product is installed and used correctly

Design, Construction or Maintenance DeficiencyFire Hose

  • Improperly designed, installed or maintained building systems are another common cause of farm building fires. This includes heating equipment, lighting systems, process equipment and electrical distribution. For example, heat shields for a suspended radiant tube heater may become displaced with the use of a high pressure washer.
  • Without the shields properly in place, the underside of the ceiling becomes too hot and increases the potential for ignition and fire. Although the design and installation of the equipment is correct, a maintenance deficiency would be identified as the cause of the fire.


Please Sign – Petitions for Farm Safety Reform

CETFA Petition

Petition to Yasir Naqvi and Jeff Leal

Equine Guelph  has also put together an excellent resource,  one of the best I’ve seen,  to help farm owners avoid fires through common sense initiatives,  and a few that aren’t so common.  Planning ahead will also improve outcomes on your farm in the event you have to call first responders.






About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

3 responses »

  1. Thank you Heather for your thorough report on this issue.
    As a teen, I rode everyday I could and I remember driving up to our equestrian centre one summer morning and something didnt seem right. When we got closer we could see and smell that the there had been a barn fire in the “old” barn, an original on the property. Worse yet we could see some of the charred remains of a pony and a horse lying so near to where the door to the old barn had been. The barn hand had been tasked with heading off the the centre members in the driveway and informing us of the tragedy but we were very early that morning and he had fallen asleep in his chair at the roadside, probably the only sleep he got that night. I will never forget the sight and smell of those two burned animals and his wailing as he tried to explain with flailing bandaged hands how he almost had those last two out…..Horrifying.
    Petition Signed.

  2. Pingback: Barn Fires – There’s No Excuse For Failing To Implement Common Sense Initiatives – Making Waves Outreach

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s