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Spate of barn fires have officials asking farmers to take extra precautions

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 & 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. 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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