By Connor Lynch
SOUTH-WEST OXFORD — South-West Oxford Township fire chief Jeff VanRybroeck can’t be sure it’s the biggest barn fire he has ever fought. But it’s definitely up there.
As of Feb. 3, there were still hotspots smouldering, cleanup was underway and firefighters had set a fire watch at the farm, co-owned by Tom Brayden.
In the dead of night on Feb. 1 a 6,000-head hog barn was up and running.
By 5 a.m. it was an inferno on Hawkins Road, west of Tillsonburg that destroyed an estimated $8 million barn and a $2-million herd of hogs, Gallagher said. The blaze was called in by a passerby. The barn is set way back on the property, so the flames would’ve already been substantial by the time they were visible from the road, VanRybroeck said. The difficulty with livestock operations that rely on ventilation is that even a small fire gets sucked through the whole building in short order.
The flames were fully engaged when firefighters arrived. The first focus was trying to keep the flames contained to one half of the building. The ventilation rendered that effort futile. Adjoining the barn were two other buildings as well as some grain bins, so firefighters shifted their efforts to protecting those and limiting the damage.
About 50 firefighters initially responded, though that swelled to 60 at the peak from eight detachments in five townships. Many of them were focused on just getting water to the site, a chronic issue in rural areas, Gallagher said. By mid-afternoon, firefighters were hitting specific spots on the barn rather than battling a general blaze. The cause, as of Feb. 3, was under investigation. The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office was notified but did not attend, said Gallagher, as the fire was not considered suspicious. Gallagher added that this fire, devastating as it was, was the first he had seen in some time. “We’ve been fortunate, over the last few years.”
WESTERN ONTARIO: $10-million barn fire destroys 6,000 hogs
By Connor Lynch