Within the past several years there has been a rash of serious barn fires in Canada, causing massive loss of animal life, particularly in intensive livestock operations (ILOs). Many of the barns that burned down were factory pig barns. For example, more than 30,000 pigs died in Manitoba in 2008 alone an eight-fold increase over 2007 (Winnipeg Free Press, January 2, 2009).
Animals in farm buildings simply are not afforded adequate fire protection in Canada. Basic fire prevention measures, including smoke and heat alarms, and sprinklers, are not required in the national farm building code.
As factory farms increase in size, so do the risks to animals. Fire safety standards for farm buildings focus on human occupancy. Yet thousands of animal occupants, often helplessly confined in cages and crates, cannot be rescued when fire breaks out.
In May 2009, the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals (CCFA) and Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC) petitioned the Standing Committee on Fire Protection of the National Research Council Canada for improved standards in the National Farm Building Code of Canada – 1995.
In July 2009, the CCFA, Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farm Animals (CETFA) and the AAC met in Winnipeg with senior Manitoba fire officials to discuss a proposed fire standard for farm buildings.
The new Manitoba standard issued in July 2010 calls for fire alarms, exit signs and sprinklers only when there are 75 human employees, which is never the case in animal agriculture operations. Tens of thousands of confined farm animals are not considered "occupants," and thus will not be protected by sprinklers and smoke alarms. Only farm buildings exceeding 600 square meters will be affected by regulations. (Read the Manitoba Fire Commission's Discussion Paper, The Regulation of Farm Buildings.)
The new Manitoba standard applies only to new farm buildings, and would not require retrofitting of existing barn facilities. Older Manitoba barns those most at risk for fire are not covered under the new rules. Furthermore, listing "exit signs" as a progressive measure means little to the animals confined to concrete or steel pens.
To make matters worse, most industrial pig and chicken barns in Manitoba are located on land devoid of farm houses, meaning there is no one to see a fire until it is well underway. These barns must have smoke sensors and suppression systems built into them if the animals are to have any hope of survival.
Action is needed now to end the massive loss of animal lives in Canadian barn fires. Write to the
, Minister of Labour and Immigration (responsible for the Buildings and Mobile Homes Act), and ask that smoke detectors and sprinklers be installed in all industrial livestock barns.
Please also write to the
asking that they institute stringent fire prevention regulations by making changes to the National Farm Building Code of Canada – 1995 to include:
1) Requiring all new commercial farm buildings housing animals to include sprinklers, smoke and heat alarms and alarms to detect ventilation failures; use of non-toxic, non-carcinogenic fire retardants on wood surfaces; fire-stopping measures for farm building attics (if present), and mandatory inspections by the local fire chief; and
2) Retrofitting of existing commercial farm buildings which house animal populations to include sprinklers, smoke and heat alarms and alarms to detect ventilation failures, and use of non-toxic, non-carcinogenic fire retardants on wood surfaces; fire-stopping measures for farm building attics (if present), and mandatory inspections by the local fire chief.
The national code revision process is underway, so your input is important right now.