Fire marshal releases cause of dairy farm fire

Eric McCarthy
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Fire blamed on bearing in escalator

Rubble from Friday’s dairy farm fire in Union, near Alberton, has already been removed from the scene. The provincial fire marshal is blaming an overheated bearing in an escalator for the fire. The loss is insured and the farm owner plans to start rebuilding next spring. 

UNION – An overheated bearing in an escalator is being blamed for Friday’s fire that destroyed two attached barns in Union, near Alberton, and claimed nearly 150 dairy animals.

Provincial Fire Marshal Dave Rossiter has concluded his investigation into the fire and ruled it accidental in nature, caused by the overheated bearing.

Rossiter said his determination is based on first-hand accounts from four people who were in the loft when the fire started. They were off-loading straw at the time.

All the reports were consistent, he said, that the fire started near the bearing, not at the motor. “You would get straw and chafe – highly combustible material. If you have something, like a bearing, that’s heating that much,” he said in describing how a fire could ignite.

Farm workers emptied fire extinguishers on the fire but could not get it out.

The fire erupted just before the noon hour on Friday and five Wet Prince departments quickly responded, successfully saving other buildings in the farmyard. The dairy barn, and the attached heifer barn, however, could not be saved.

“It was on the south-facing side of the barn, and the winds that day, it wouldn’t take very long (for the fire to get out of control),” he acknowledged.

An excavator was called in to pull down the walls so that fire fighters could get at the flames. Both buildings and their contents were subsequently hauled away and buried that night.

“Excellent fire-fighting effort, considering we had other structures around it, such as silos and we had a house in very close proximity that received no damage whatsoever,” Rossiter said of the response by the five departments. “There was a good flow of water, consistently, throughout, with the tanker shuttle operation that they had. With what they were working with, with weather and wind and everything else, it was a fantastic job done there.”

Alberton fire chief, Tom Murphy estimates 300,000 gallons of water were used in fighting the fire and protecting nearby exposures.

Farm owner, Kent Rennie, is already planning to rebuild, but said he will not be starting construction until spring. The seven animals that survived the fire are being cared for at another dairy farm.

Geographic location: Alberton

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