Humane Society International is calling for better fire protection on farms.
In a report that tallies livestock and poultry deaths as well as personal injuries, the Society says more needs to be done.
“We’re just not realizing how big an issue this is and how many people it impacts,” said Riana Topan who helped write the report.
The report estimates that at least 750,000 animals have died in barn fires since 2015, but adds it thinks its estimate is low.
“Media reports are documenting only a fraction of the barn fire incidents that happen throughout Canada,” the study says.
Nearly three-quarters of the dead animals were chickens. Except for 2019, every year in the study period had at least one fire that killed more than 30,000 birds.
Pig deaths were 15 per cent of the total. While fewer cattle died, they were involved in more than half of all barn fires, which killed 21 different species during the study period.
In Ontario, 39 farmers were injured trying to save their animals.
The economic loss is estimated to be at least $165 million.
Topan said changes are needed to Canada’s national building code, now being revised by the National Research Council. A new code is expected later this year.
“We should see a distinction between different types of property,” Topan said. “Buildings that house animals should be treated separately from buildings that house objects.”
Sprinkler systems, on-site water storage and heat and smoke detection should all be considered, she said.
The society also endorses recommendations from the Ontario government, which include isolating electrical equipment – the cause of more than half of barn fires – from the rest of the structure.
The council emphasizes regular inspection and maintenance of electrical equipment or periodic surveys for hot spots.
“Prevention is the ideal key.”
The national building code is revised every five years. Its implementation is up to the provinces.
The National Research Council’s time period for public comment on changes to the code closes at the end of this week.