Top 5 Reasons Barns Are High Fire Risks
March 30, 2016


This is one of those few words that immediately get people’s attention – especially horse people.

Of late, there have been several tragic fires that have claimed the lives of dozens of horses and as a result, there is plenty of discussion in the equine community about why these fires are occurring and what can be done to reduce the risk.

In Ontario alone, the Fire Marshal’s office reports that in a typical year, they are called upon to investigate 120-150 fires in the agricultural community.

That number should get the attention of property owners across Canada who may have significant assets at risk. There is no doubt that their insurers are paying close attention to the statistics that help them determine costs and availability of insurance coverage.

For folks that live in the country there are challenges that make them unique risks:

  • Proximity to fire service. Unlike urban dwellers, most farms are not protected by a fire hydrant, but rather, must rely on a (typically) volunteer fire service that necessarily transport water from significant distance in trucks to fight a fire. Response times are critical in any fire and for farm buildings, the window to control and knock down a fire is usually under 7 minutes from the moment the fire starts. Regrettably, even the best and closest fire service response time is more than that so by the time the “fight begins”, the objective changes from saving the building and the contents within to controlling the spread of the fire to other structures. in other words, it may be over before it begins.
  • Building Materials.  Large buildings that are often made of wood and house a long list of combustible materials that are highly flammable and are very difficult to extinguish. (a quick sidebar- we were recently involved in a claim where the hay in the barn continued to smolder and flare up for almost TWO WEEKS after the building was lost. More than 30,000 gallons of water were used on the first day alone and that is a lot of truckloads!
  • Poor design is another big issue. In many buildings, insufficient exits, narrow aisles, obstructions can all actually help fires spread making it impossible to quickly bring under them control.
  • Poor and inadequate wiring. This is probably the number one cause of fires in barns.
  • No fire detection devices. There was a time when smoke detectors were just not able to discern between dust particles and smoke particles, but that is no longer the case. EVERY BARN SHOULD BE EQUIPPED WITH A SMOKE AND HEAT SENSOR.

We will be at Can-Am Equine Expo April 1-3, 2016 with Equine Guelph talking about fire prevention strategies to help stop barn fires and keep your animals safe.