Hog barn fire ‘could have been much worse’

The cause of this fire has not been determined, but here are some preventive tips:

A hog farm north of Leroy, Sask., is redistributing its stock after a June 18 inferno demolished two barns.

The structural fire killed about 4,500 pigs after nearly 30 firefighters battled the blaze for more than three hours.

“The neighbour across the road reported it and then called me, so I was first on site,” said Jay McGrath, general manager for Sinnett Pork Farm Ltd.

He said the damage could have been much worse, but the farm was transitioning between feed contracts.

“We were changing companies we feed for, so their pigs were moving out of the farm. There would have been four times as many pigs in there if it was full,” he said.

A new contract with a different company is scheduled to bring pigs in July 4, but McGrath said Sinnett has to adjust its game plan.

“We’ve yet to determine what we’re going to do. Right now, (we’ll) probably have to start selling them straight to the U.S.,” he said.

Sinnett Pork Farm Ltd. has two other locations and plans to distribute most of the incoming pigs to those sites.

According to Humboldt RCMP, the fire was under control by 7:30 p.m., but the blaze destroyed the structures.

Paul Cockell, chief of the Leroy Volunteer Fire Department, said when he arrived the north barn was fully engulfed.

“Initially, our plan was to try and save the south barn so we positioned ourselves in a way that we can try and do so…. It wasn’t long after we were on scene when we realized we were just going to have to go to a defensive role and just provide protection for the surrounding structures,” he said.

Some firefighters stayed at the farm through the night to guard against flare-ups.

Emergency Medical Services from Lanigan, Sask., was on the scene, but found no one was in the barns at the time of the fire. The Humboldt and Englefeld fire departments also attended.

“Everybody came out… bringing water… bringing food. We had farmers coming out with water. It speaks volumes when something like this happens, how everyone comes together and helps each other out,” said Cockell.

Tim Thibault, a former volunteer firefighter, drove to the fire and tweeted it could be seen from Humboldt, Sask., about 50 kilometers away from Sinnett Farms.

Harvey Wagner, who manages producer services for the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board, said the fire is an unfortunate and tragic situation.

“I don’t know the cause of this fire, but electrical tend to be the most common cause of barn fires, overheated fans. There’s lots of equipment that’s working all the time,” he said.

Sinnett Pork Farm Ltd. said in a written statement that it will try to get the facility rebuilt and running again as quickly as possible.

“This changes a lot of things real quick. We have other barns, so our staff, we will reposition them and definitely won’t be laying people off,” McGrath said.

He said he is overwhelmed by the community’s quick response and the local fire departments’ resolve.

The Saskatchewan Pork Development Board shared its support and condolences for the farm and workers.

“We feel for them and their loss and the hard work ahead to fix it up and clean up and rebuild. We understand their difficulty and we hope the Sinnett family, their family of operations, can resolve this in a good manner,” said Wagner.

Fire prevention tips

The cause of this fire has not been determined, but here are some preventive tips:

  • Do not overload wiring. Inspect and replace old or defective wiring and chewed cords with new circuits or electrical cords.
  • Keep your barn clean. A buildup of dust, trash or spider webs in the electrical system is a fire hazard.
  • Remove trash and flammable materials from the area around motors and heaters.
  • Heat lamp cords should be short enough that they become unplugged if a lamp falls to the ground.
  • Never permit smoking in barns or near flammable materials.
  • Ensure smoke detectors are functional and undergo regular inspections.

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