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Structure Fire and Wildfire

Fires can have a devastating impact on a farm. Whether it’s a small area fire or uncontrolled wildfire, flames can spread across vast tracts of land, posing serious threats to livestock in barns, pens, and pastures.

Livestock Evacuation Documentation Form

STRUCTURE FIRES

  • Farm buildings, sheds, and residences may be seriously impacted during a fire. These structures often contain materials such as wood, hay, and straw that can act as feedstock and further fuel the blaze.
  • The ignition of a fire may be triggered by engine exhaust, exposed wiring, or lighting as well as other on farm heat sources such as combustion of bedding, litter, or hay. It is important to keep flammable materials away from heat sources and to be aware that high moisture levels in bales can contribute to excess heat, mold growth, and loss of dry matter. Fortunately, almost all structure fires are preventable. By being observant and practicing common-sense fire prevention techniques you can help reduce risks.

Considerations for Structure Fires

  • Always have professionals perform all wiring and electrical modifications to barns, livestock housing structures and shops
  • Prohibit smoking in and around barns
  • Store combustibles (e.g., hay, shavings, manure, gas, oil, propane, paint, cutting torches) away from the barn
  • Minimize the number of heat and electrical appliances in the barn that have the risk of sparking or causing fires
  • Grain dust will ignite and explode. Do not try to auger grains during a fire
  • Map the location of fire extinguishers, these should be in all barns, shops, and structures that have the potential to catch fire. Fire extinguishers should be easy to find within the structures, and all staff and family members should know where they are located and how to use them
  • A structure can be completely engulfed in less than six minutes
  • Panicked animals normally will not leave a barn on their own, because they do not fear fire
  • Most animals are killed from smoke inhalation and those who do survive rarely recover
  • Never put personal safety in jeopardy to save an animal

Horse Handling

  • Lead animals from the left-hand side
  • Horses are easier to control when blindfolded
  • A towel over the horse’s eyes, secured under the halter works well to keep horses from running back into the barn

Action Items During a Fire

  • If possible, turn off all power sources to the barn, shop, or any other affected structures
  • If the barn roof is on fire, do not enter the structure as there is potential for the roof to collapse
  • All severely injured or burned animals must be humanely euthanized as soon as possible following provincial guidelines:

WILDFIRE

  • Wildfires can spread across forests, grasslands, and fields at an astonishing rate. Farms near wildlands/ grasslands or owners that have livestock near these natural areas should be prepared for wildfires and know the steps to minimize risks and losses.

Preparation

There are several proactive measures that can be completed in advance to prepare producers for a wildfire emergency including:

  • Having contact information for prearranged off-farm evacuation sites (lairage points) handy
  • Reviewing wildfire history in area
  • Identifying and maintaining equipment that may help fight an approaching grassfire or wildfire (e.g., disk, harrow, tractor, water truck)
  • Reducing vegetation and wood debris within 10 to 30 meters of farm structures by thinning and pruning
  • Creating firebreaks by clearing vegetation and exposing bare soil to help curb the movement of wildfire
  • Mapping the location of fire extinguishers, these should be in all barns, shops, and structures that have the potential to catch fire. Fire extinguishers should be easy to find within the structures, and all staff and family members should know where they are located and how to use them
  • Predetermining the location evacuation sites and routes that may be used for animal movement and have a map of the identified areas readily available for all staff, family and first responders
  • Storing hay, straw, beddings/shaving outside the barn in a dry, covered area, if possible
  • Having water and feed readily available or at the pre-arranged lairage site(s) to ensure that all affected livestock have sufficient feed and water
  • Creating a detailed inventory of livestock and developing list of emergency contacts prior to any wildfire event
  • If in a wildfire susceptible area, procuring and installing some type of irrigation/ sprinkler system to help suppress fire
  • Preparing an evacuation kit that includes but is not limited to:
  • Supply of feed, supplements, and water for 7 to 10 days
  • Blankets, halters, leads, water buckets, feed buckets
  • Copies of vaccination records, medical records, and proof of ownership
  • Tools
  • Cash and credit card

Response

In the lead up to and during a wildfire emergency, producers will try to protect their farms and prevent losses. As you respond to the threat of wildfire consider the following:

  • Evacuating employees/visitors to an agreed safe meeting place as required
  • Notifying the fire authority immediately
  • Assessing the fire and only attempting to contain or extinguish a small fire if it can be done safely