Prevent Your Farm Buildings From Going Up in Smoke

Agribusiness Insurance, Claims, Loss Prevention

Though barn fires aren’t as common as house fires, more fires to farm buildings are occurring each year.

According to the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management, in just about every scenario, barn fires are avoidable as human error is often a factor. The cause of fire for almost half of all barn fires is usually reported as undetermined. This is due to the complete loss of the structure and contents, making it very difficult to determine the cause.

Common causes of fires

  • mechanical/electrical failure
  • misuse of ignition source/equipment
  • design/construction/maintenance deficiency

Common sources of ignition

  • electrical distribution equipment (circuit wiring, distribution equipment, extension cords etc.)
  • heating equipment (central heating, flue pipe, or space heaters)
  • open flame (cutting/welding, blow torch, and smokers)
  • miscellaneous (chemical reactions, such as spontaneous combustion and lightning)


  • DO call on a licensed electrical contractor to check all wiring, mechanical and heating systems for signs of damage, deterioration and/or corrosion of equipment in livestock confinement buildings.
  • DO Remove potential combustible materials around buildings by mowing grass and weeds around buildings, removing rubbish inside and around buildings, and trimming trees near buildings.
  • DO Properly locate (and manage) on-farm fuel storage tanks away from buildings. This ensures flammable vapours released during refuelling of vehicles or filling of storages are not drawn into the farm buildings, but dissipate into the atmosphere.
  • DO Ensure that all machinery is properly cleaned after each use (as well as winterized when appropriate), cleaning engines and outlets of dust and debris.
  • DO Store potentially flammable solutions, solvents, gases, liquids and fertilizers outdoors to prevent fire from accelerating.
  • DO Have a trained professional conduct a thorough inspection once a year.
  • DON’T Pressure wash in the barn—this can cause deep penetration of water into electrical panels, heater controls and other electricity sources that can cause them to malfunction.
  • DON’T Use heat lamps unless they’re affixed with the appropriate certification—either CSA or ULC.
  • DON’T Store combustible materials like hay or straw in areas that are exposed to heat.

Slow the spread of fire

  • DO Include effective fire stops in large farm buildings and an all-season road around the entire building site to allow good access for firefighting equipment.
  • DO Equip all buildings with a minimum five-pound ABC fire extinguisher at each exit and in all mechanical and feed rooms. If there is a standby generator housed in the building, the room housing the generator should be equipped with a minimum 10 pound ABC fire extinguisher.
  • DO Have a water source handy, so small fires can be controlled and doused quickly.

Keep an eye out

During the busy summer and fall harvest months, a farm operator’s mind turns to getting the crops in. This is the most important time to be vigilant and watch out for anything that might cause a fire to start on the property.

A free service for Grenville Mutual Policyholders

We will conduct an inspection of electrical equipment (such as panels and plugs) using infrared cameras to look for hot spots (overheating) as a way to detect corrosion issues.

For more information on how you can ensure your farm is protected against causes of fires, ask one of our knowledgeable Brokers to have Grenville Mutual do a risk assessment of your property.