Barn & kennel fire deaths are preventable
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:
Catastrophic fires at the end of January and beginning of
Febuary 2005 illustrated yet again the importance of avoiding fire
hazards at animal facilities and developing contingency plans that
allow for fast smoke-venting and/or animal evacuation.
Three fires erupted on January 24.
The first was discovered at 2:45 a.m. at the Shepherd’s Way
Farm near Nerstand, Minnesota, the largest producer of sheep’s milk
in the U.S., founded by Stephen Read and family in 1994. Of the
flock of 800, about 113 ewes and 228 lambs were killed outright.
University of Minnesota veterinary students and volunteer faculty
later euthanized another 80-plus, chiefly due to lung damage from
Believed to have been an arson, the fire came four days
after someone torched a stack of 30 round hay bales in a roadside
pasture. There were no immediate suspects.
Smoke inhalation is the chief cause of death of both humans
and animals in fires, but is somewhat more preventable in barns than
in houses, if hay is stored away from the animals, if large doors
can be opened on all sides, and if the large exhaust fans often used
to vent manure fumes remain operable after a fire begins. Relatively
few barns meet these requirements.
At about 11:30 a.m. on January 24, a fire of unknown origin
was discovered at Covance Research Products’ Texter Mountain complex
in Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania. Fought for five hours by 13
tankers from five departments, the fire razed one of four barns
which according to a 2001 USDA report cumulatively housed 14,000
“An attempt by three employees to save some rabbits was
thwarted by heavy smoke,” said Lebanon Daily News staff writer Rory
Most small-animal care facilities still use fixed-position
caging, like facilities built for larger animals, but some recent
designs include modular caging, so that animals can be transported
without having to transfer them from cages to carriers.
In addition, modular cages can be stacked on wheeled
platforms, so that all of the animals in a section of the facility
can be moved at once. This can make cleaning easier, as well as
transportation, and if the design of the facility allows, may
enable staff to roll the animals outdoors in appropriate weather.
The primary benefit from this tends to be happier, healthier
animals, but faster evacuations can also be accomplished.
At about 11 p.m. on January 24, faulty wiring in the attic
of shelter in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, killed 59 cats and 20
dogs. Shelter manager Didgit Weber lives next door, but was only
able to save 11 dogs. A new shelter was already under construction
to replace the one that burned, which was acquired in 1982. The
design of older shelters focused on keeping the animals in and
keeping intruders out. Newer layouts often include fenced outdoor
exercise yards into which animals can be quickly released if a fast
evacuation becomes necessary.
Location had a part in elevating the animal death toll from
fires that on February 9 killed 13 dogs at Lennon’s Florist & Gift in
Latham, New York, and on February 13 killed 87,000 chickens at
Edelweiss Farms in Aurora, Oregon.
Eight dogs survived the Latham fire. Building inspector Mike
Rosch told Albany Times-Union staff writer Anne Miller that although
current zoning would preclude breeding dogs at the site, store owner
Elaine Lennon was “grandfathered” to do so, having bred dogs there
for more than 30 years.
The Edelweiss Farms fire was as bad as it was, Aurora fire
chief Rod Yoder indicated to the Portland Oregonian, in part
because the five tankers from four local engine companies who
responded had to haul water from three miles away to fight it.
Edelweiss Farms is owned by Wilcox Farms.
Firefighters arranged the rescue of 23 dogs, three cats, a
rabbit, three birds, a giant spider, a scorpion, and a millipede
they found in conditions of alleged neglect while fighting a January
3 fire at the home of Patricia Scott, 56, in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Porter Superior Court Judge David Chidester on February 1 awarded
permanent custody of all of the animals except two dogs to the Porter
County Animal Shelter. Scott pleaded innocent to criminal animal
cruelty on February 9, but pleaded guilty on January 10 to
misdemeanor trespassing and false informing in connection with a
January 6 alleged attempt to take the animals from the shelter.