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Fire prevention on the farm

Fire prevention on the farm

Producers, their families and staff members can use fire safety plans to reduce their risks.

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer

As farm buildings are especially susceptible to fast-moving fires, farmers should ensure they have up-to-date fire safety and prevention plans.

Farm buildings have ample supplies of oxygen, fuel and heat. These buildings are well ventilated, constructed of wood and house other possible fuel sources such as hay, straw and grain. Potential heat sources in farm buildings include sunlight, electricity, open flames or compressed gas, said an article from the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, the Perth East Fire Department and the Farm Safety Association.

So, to protect their families, staff, animals and businesses, producers must determine safety procedures and fire protocols.

Local fire department members can help producers develop plans. These officials can visit farm operations and help property owners identify fire hazards. Firefighters can also provide advice on how to make access routes to all areas in the farmyard, the article said.

Once famers develop fire safety plans, they need to ensure all family members, staff and frequent visitors are familiar with the procedures. Producers may want to practice fire drills with their teams.

Livestock producers may also want to connect with neighbouring farmers to arrange alternate shelter options for animals in the event evacuations are required, the article said. 

Other approaches to fire prevention include:

  • enforcing a no-smoking policy on the farm. Post signs and inform workers and visitors that smoking is not permitted in any barn or farm building. If people smoke, they must extinguish cigarettes properly and safely before entering any buildings
  • keeping buildings and yard areas clean and organized
  • practicing electrical safety. Regular maintenance and cleaning can identify worn-out parts and enable producers to prevent electrical sources from overheating from dirt and dust build up
  • installing and maintaining lightning rods and grounding cables
  • practicing equipment refuelling safety. Machinery fill-up should occur at a safe distance from buildings so that flammable vapours can dissipate. Make sure engines are stopped and cool

“Preventive maintenance, good housekeeping, eliminating clutter, and keeping combustibles away from electrical outlets” are all incredibly important for fire prevention, Andrea DeJong said.

She is an Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) director, chair of OAFC’s fire prevention and public education advisory committee and deputy chief of support services at Windsor Fire & Rescue Services.

“Electrical malfunctions account for the highest cause (10 per cent) of farm fires,” she said. Overloading electrical boxes, long-term extension cord use or improper electrical repairs can lead to fire. Farmers should hire licensed professionals for larger electrical projects or repairs, she said.

As part of their preventative maintenance, producers should conduct regular equipment inspections. While the fire code does not require fire safety plans, “preparing and implementing (such plans) keeps you on track with ongoing maintenance,” DeJong said.

In addition, as encapsulated in Farm 911 – The Emily Project, the installation of 911 signs at all farm property entrances is important to ensure that first responders can reach the right location in a timely manner, DeJong said.

Producers can create and keep farm fire safety checklists updated to ensure their farms are prepared if fires occur. The completion of this checklist also helps prevent fires.

The Farm Safety Association, the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Ontario highlight important steps that producers can take to reduce the risk of fire on their properties. This document is posted here. This checklist also prompts producers to identify unique issues related to their agri-businesses.

In addition, OMAFRA has a fact sheet and booklet that review how producers can reduce the risk of farm fires.  

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