Barn fires are devastating, traumatic events for farmers – the loss of buildings, livestock, produce and equipment has a significant impact across the operation, and it takes years to recover. With large-scale farming becoming more common, the risks for loss are even greater. The buildings associated with farms have increased in size and value, and prove more difficult to extinguish.
Common Causes of Barn Fires
While sometimes the damage from a fire can be too extensive to determine what started it, the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal has stated there are the three leading causes of barn fires: mechanical/electrical failure, misuse of ignition source or igniting equipment, and design, construction or maintenance deficiency.
How you can protect your farm
While there is no way to completely prevent a fire from happening at your farm, you can reduce your risk by adding some simple actions into your routine.
- Keep the areas inside and outside your buildings clean and clutter-free.
- Maintain the grass with regular mowing and weed removal.
- Ensure you have enough fire extinguishers and that they are easy to access in an emergency. Regularly inspect them to make sure they are in working order.
- Develop an emergency plan and share it with your family and employees so that everyone is clear on what needs to be done if there is a fire. Make sure to identify a meeting place, emergency contacts and a plan for any animals or livestock on the premises.
- Always have a professional do any repairs to mechanical and electrical equipment.
- Have a licensed electrical contractor inspect all electrical equipment within the barn annually.
- Limit the use of extension cords on the farm and never use them as permanent wiring.
- Repair any damaged or malfunctioning equipment as soon as you can. If it is beyond repair, remove it from the barn and dispose of it.
- Do not store flammable and/or combustible material underneath or around the electrical panels.
- If you are using heat lamps, make sure to protect the areas with non-combustible materials and clear all bedding and clutter.
- Be aware of, and abide by the recommended inspection and maintenance schedules of your equipment as provided by the manufacturer for any issues.
- Have proper ventilation to avoid the risk of motors overheating while they are in use.
- Keep fan motors and blades free of dust and debris build up.
- Complete annual maintenance of all heating devices within the farm buildings.
- Ensure all heat shields are in place for any heating device that requires them.
A little attention to detail and regular review of your fire prevention activities can go a long way in reducing the risks to your people, equipment, livestock and crops and prevent a substantial financial loss to your operation.
Cowan Insurance Group can work with you to make a risk management plan to give you peace of mind and help protect your business.