BURLINGTON, Vt. — “A person driving from Middlebury knocked on our door at 11:30 at night and yelled, ‘Your barn’s on fire.’ There were flames 70 feet in the air. There were 80 head that died in the fire. That was a bad night.”
Cornwall dairy farmer Maurice LaFrambois knows firsthand how devastating a fire can be on a farm. He’s one of three farmers featured in “Fire Safety on Vermont Farms,” a new educational video written and produced by Louise Waterman, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, through an Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America grant.
She was assisted by Paul Gittelsohn, VideoSyncracies; Kevin Bourdon, Co-op Insurance; Michael Greenia, assistant state fire marshall; and David Morrison, FireProTec. It was narrated by me, George Cook, the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension farm safety specialist.
Free copies of the DVD will be available at the Vermont Farm Show, Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Essex Junction at the UVM Extension, Co-op Insurance, Vermont Division of Fire Safety and Healthy Farmers, Healthy Farms booths. Or contact the UVM Extension Office in Morrisville at (802) 888-4972 or (866) 260-5603 (toll-free in Vermont) or stop by your local UVM Extension office.
Excerpts from the 16 1/2-minute video also can be viewed on a recent Across the Fence show on farm safety. That show is posted on YouTube at http://go.uvm.edu/vtfarmfiresafety.
The video walks viewers through three tragic farm fires in Vermont. Farm family members recount the horrific moments and hours during and after the fire, cattle lost, buildings destroyed and life as they knew it, gone.
For LaFrambois and Claude and Gail Lapierre of Shelburne, it meant the end of a dream, the loss of the enterprise that was their livelihood. “Within a matter of a few hours…everything was gone,” says Claude LaPierre.
On another farm, a large loader was destroyed.
“The next day was utter chaos,” Tony Pouliot of Westford recalls. “Feeding 800 cows with a small tractor with a bucket loader…. We were lost without it.”
In the video you will learn about potential fire hazards on your farm and steps you can take to protect both farm and family. After viewing, perform a walk-through on your farm to identify hazards, fill out a fire safety checklist, complete a farm-fire preplan and share it with your local fire department.
Organize your search by barn, housing, farm machinery and shop. Examples of hazards include old live, open wiring; uncovered switches; tractors parked next to piles of hay or other combustibles; lack of or out-of-date fire extinguishers, disabled smoke detectors and no clearly visible E 9-1-1 reflective driveway sign. Fire extinguishers, which should be located every 75 feet in a barn, need to be inspected annually.
Training of all employees and family members is critical. This includes fire extinguisher training and preventative maintenance. You can insure a barn for what it’s worth, but you can’t insure it for replacement value.
Remember, fire safety is up to you. Take the time to do an inspection of your farm’s potential fire hazards every year. Follow through and fix these hazards or hire a professional to make the repairs as necessary. It’s also a good idea to establish a regular fire and safety training schedule for your employees and document all training.
Extension Farm Safety Specialist
University of Vermont
For more articles out of New England, click here.