Electrical issues are associated many Ontario barn fires, according to a farm insurance specialist
By Diego Flammini
When building a barn, farmers can include certain details in the building plans to reduce the risk of barn fires, according to Jim Zyta, a farm insurance specialist with Heartland Farm Mutual.
Issues with electrical equipment and extension cords were present in many barn fires in 2017, Zyta explained to members of the Canadian Farm Builders Association during its annual meeting in Stratford, Ont. on Jan. 26.
“Extension cords – that blows our mind,” he said, according to ConstructConnect. “Extension cords are used everywhere throughout farm operations. (They are) easier than to hardwire the operation.”
Making firewalls part of the barn’s construction and separating buildings by at least 80 feet can also help to prevent fires from spreading, he said. Sprinkler systems aren’t necessarily a viable option for agricultural structures, he added.
Farmers can also take risk management steps before construction begins.
A comprehensive pre-building review can not only help prevent a barn fire, but could also result in a lower insurance rate.
“We believe strongly – before the cement gets poured, before things get rolling – the insurance company, its risk inspection department, should be involved with the contractor, the building officials (and) the fire department,” he told the delegates according to ConstructConnect.
If a farmer doesn’t want to participate in fire prevention planning, they may end up with a higher insurance rate, he added.
Barn fires have caused extensive damage in Ontario in recent years.
From 2008 to 2014, 1,163 barn fires occurred at Ontario farms, according to OMAFRA. The highest number of fires happened in 2009 and again in 2011 (186 fires).
Farmers’ total losses from barn fires since 2008 is about $197 million. The highest losses ($35.96 million) occurred in 2011.