Kincardine hosts regional builder’s forum for first time


By Barb McKay

Barn fire prevention was a hot topic during the 2017 Builders Forum held Thursday at the Davidson Centre.

This is the first year the Municipality of Kincardine has hosted the forum, organized by the Bluewater Chapter of the Ontario Building Officials Association. Terry Kuipers, chair of the Bluewater chapter, explained that the forum has been held annually since 1991 and different municipalities within the chapter will typically host the event for three consecutive years.

“The purpose is to get information out to our contractors and in turn to our building officials so when they talk to contractors they all have the same information,” he said.

This year’s forum was attended by 134 contractors and municipal building officials from throughout the region and 18 vendors.

“It was a good turnout for our first one,” said Kincardine chief building official Michele Barr. “The speakers have been very informative.”

Participants heard presentations from experienced municipal and industry professionals on building code changes, radon building code requirements, requirements related to energy efficiency and proposed changes to the national farm building code.

One topic of particular interest was about barn fire inspection findings in Ontario. Jim Zyta, vice-president of loss prevention and risk assessment for Heartland Farm Mutual talked about his company’s relatively new approach to dealing with farm businesses. Zyta said Heartland conducts thousands of inspections on farm operations for insurance purposes, but in the last few years there has been a more intense focus on prevention. The company uses analytics to identify hazards and provide solutions to eliminate fire risks.

Zyta said what he discovered is that fires more often occurred in pig, poultry and dairy barns where animals were living 24/7 in a confined space. Moisture, vapour and gas from wash stations and manure created hazards in areas where recepticals and electrical panels were out-dated, not up to code or corroded. Of 1,519 inspections of agricultural facilities conducted in 2016, 1,435 recommendations were handed out (70 per cent of which related to electrical concerns) and 235 required immediate action.

Zyta said electrical and mechanical failures are the number one cause of barn fires, followed by the use of portable and temporary heaters that were not designed for agricultural buildings. Other causes include recessed lighting, misuse of ignition sources and general housekeeping.

“Today, we’re seeing lots of good solutions put into new construction, but we’re dealing with what went into the rush of construction 20 years ago,” he said.

Since taking a more analytical approach when dealing with farm customers, Zyta said Heartland has seen the number of major fires steadily decline to where there were nine occurrences in 2016 compared to 28 just a few years prior.