Science - October 14, 2010

Hundreds of thousands fall victim to shed fires

Some seven hundred shed fires over the last four years have claimed the lives of 1,422 cows, 23 thousand pigs and 712 thousand chickens and turkeys. Students of Van Hall Larenstein are calling for preventive measures to lessen such agony for man and beast.

iStock_000001816437Small.jpg
Madelaine Looije and Michelle Smit, both students in Leeuwarden studying Animal Management, did a survey study of shed fires for the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals and the Dutch Federation of Agriculture and Horticulture. Their supervisors were lecturers Hans Hopster (animal welfare) and Rene Hagen (fire prevention). Hagen works for the Netherlands Institute for Safety.
Short circuits
The number of shed fires has increased somewhat in the last few years, according to the students, due to more intensive use of electrical equipment and installations in sheds. The most common causes of shed fires are short circuits, doing work in the sheds and overheated machines. The students obtained their information from farm insurance companies and press reports.
Stress
Not all fires caused loss of lives. There were animals killed in 57 of the 410 shed fires in dairy farms, and in 64 of the 242 fires in pig farms. It is most horrible to die in this way; even in fires without deaths, animals come under great stress, and their welfare hangs in the balance, argue the students.
Measures
As farms get bigger, more animals would die in a fire. To reduce the number of fires and deaths caused by fires, fire safety has to be emphasized more during the design and construction of sheds. The students stress that municipalities should have a fire safety manual for animal sheds. They should make sure when issuing permits that construction companies do not use any hazardous insulation materials, and that electrical equipment are checked more thoroughly and fire dampers are installed in ventilation ducts. The students also propose that livestock farmers install sprinklers in the sheds for putting out fires quickly.
The students handed over their report 'Fire in animal sheds' this morning to outgoing LNV Minister Gerda Verburg.

Re:act