Calls for regulation changes after barn fire kills hundreds of cattle

By | August 14, 2019

The Winnipeg Humane Society says it wants to see regulation changes in buildings that house animals.

On Wednesday, animal welfare consultant Brittany Semeniuk said she wants to see amended legislation in fire regulations and reduced capacity in Manitoba animal facilities.

The call for action comes after Pennwood Dairy, a farming operation northeast of Steinbach, went up in flames Monday.

The fire resulted in four barns being destroyed and killed roughly 800 cattle in the facility. Steinbach Fire Department said the farm housed at least 1,000 animals and close to 200 survived.

“So long as we continue to confine animals in buildings where there are high ammonia levels, high methane levels, and hay, wood and other flammable materials, these tragedies will continue,” Semeniuk said.

“It’s a serious welfare issue,” she said.

Semeniuk said the Winnipeg Humane Society is calling for evacuation plans for animals, raising awareness that full sprinklers are not required in facilities, and other safety precautions.

“In the past 10 years alone, we have seen almost 40,000 pigs perish in barn fires in Manitoba,” she said.

Henry Holtmann, a dairy farmer and partner for Rosser Holsteins, said he was a part of a committee within the Keystone Agricultural Producers that took part in a renewal process when amending building safety codes in 2017.

“We were looking at things like fire-stops in attics…so if there is a fire, it slows down the fire. We have what we call fire safety doors,” he said.

Holtmann added that everything being built, as of 2017, including facility expansions, have to live up to the changes. He said under the new code, facilities are considered low occupancy due to few people in them, thus not requiring buildings to have a resource like a full sprinkler system.

Holtmann says he would not oppose more changes, if appropriate.

“We want to make sure that the changes are based on sound numbers and making sure that regulation is not a knee-jerk reaction.”

The Office of the Fire Commissioner told CTV news that the fire is still under investigation and won’t be commenting further at this time.