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Ontario farmers, fire chiefs work together on fire prevention

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Ontario farmers, fire chiefs work together on fire prevention

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"Emergency preparedness and risk management are long-standing priorities for the OFA", says Drew Spoelstra.

GUELPH ON [March 13, 2024] – The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) are joining forces to share resources and promote fire safety and prevention on Ontario farms.

“Emergency preparedness and risk management are long-standing priorities for the OFA and our county and regional federations, and we are pleased to start working closely with Ontario’s fire chiefs to help encourage awareness about how to reduce fire risks on Ontario farms,” says Drew Spoelstra, farmer and President of the OFA. “Fire is an ever-present but preventable threat for Ontario farmers and we appreciate being able to promote and share resources about what can be done to minimize those risks to keep people, animals and buildings safe.”

Barn fires are a serious concern at all times of the year, but colder winter temperatures heighten risks. Cold weather increases condensation on cold surfaces, and the corrosive mixture of barn gasses and moisture invades the electrical system. The increased use of heating equipment also poses risks of ignition with gas heaters, for example.

“Farm fires are tragic events, but better fire prevention starts with simple yet often overlooked basics that can minimize on-farm risks,” says OAFC President Rob Grimwood, Deputy Chief, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services. “We share many aligning interests with the OFA on fire safety and prevention, and we are pleased to be working together to help make people aware of fire risks and what they can do to protect their families, farms and businesses.”

Some of the biggest fire risks in farm buildings come from dust and cobwebs, extension cords and heaters, and electrical plugs, receptacles and panels. Easy steps farmers can take to reduce the threat of fire include hardwiring or using waterproof plus or outlets, keeping buildings clean of dust and cobwebs, replacing extension cords, and identifying potential hotspots with a thermal imaging camera.

According to the latest statistics available from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, Ontario saw 152 barn fires in 2021 with damages of just over $54 million.

The OFA hopes to have OAFC or members from local fire departments join organizational representatives at key farm shows across the province to engage directly with farmers about how to protect their farm buildings and livestock.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) represents 38,000 farm families across the province and serves as the leading advocate and strongest voice of Ontario’s farmers. As a dynamic farmer-led organization, the OFA represents and champions the interests of Ontario farmers through government relations, farm policy recommendations, research, lobby efforts, community representation, media relations and more.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) represents the chief fire officers of the 437 fire departments in the province of Ontario. The OAFC’s mission is to provide leadership and support to the Ontario fire service through advocacy in service delivery, public and firefighter safety.

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