By Connor Lynch
SCUGOG — Although a teenager was charged last month with torching a barn near Peterborough, arson is very uncommon on farms.
An 18-year-old from Scugog was charged with arson after a large barn fire at Blackstock in January caused an estimated $500,000 in damages.
It seems like every other week there’s news of another barn fire in Ontario. There’s no question that barns are extremely prone to fire, said Mississauga Fire Services public education captain Tanya Bettridge. But only four per cent of barn fires are deliberately set. According to data from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office, from 2015-2018, there were 422 barn fires. Of those, about 19, or 4.5 per cent, were caused by arson, based on investigations by the local fire departments.
That’s about half the rate of arson for residential homes, according to data from the Ministry of the Solicitor General. From 2013 to 2017, of 35,342 house fires in Ontario, about 2,827, or eight per cent, were caused by arson.
“Barns are the perfect environment for fires to start and spread,” Bettridge said. Dust buildups, ventilation systems and corroded electrical systems all come together in an area that tends to have less foot traffic than, say, the average house. Not to mention that barns, by design, keep animals in, not out.
In many cases, causes are difficult to know. Barn fires tend to be total losses, and a fire that big tends to destroy the evidence of how it started. Most causes go down as undetermined, but the most common known cause is electrical failure.
Bettridge says that the least expensive ways to reduce the chances of a barn fire include: Installing fire extinguishers, regularly checking wiring in barns, cleaning out dust, don’t let anyone smoke in or near the barn, keeping manure piles away from barns, only using extension cords temporarily and not refueling equipment inside the barns while the engine is hot.
When it comes to barn fires, arson is highly unlikely
By Connor Lynch