QUINCY, Massachusetts––A January 31, 2014 fire that killed 300,000 egg-laying hens at the S&R Egg Farm in La Grange, Wisconsin has reignited notice of a National Fire Protection Association proposal to require sprinkler systems in farm animal housing.
Founded in 1896, the NFPA publishes and frequently updates fire safety standards used by insurance underwriters and often written into building codes.
NFPA data shows that firefighters respond to about 830 barn fires per year in the U.S., doing $28 million worth of damage.
“In 2012 more than 600,000 farmed animals––mainly chickens and turkeys––died in fires in commercial housing facilities in the U.S.,” according to United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis.
“There is a reason hell is depicted as eternal fire,” blogged Chicago-based health writer Martha Rosenberg on February 17, 2014. “Yet millions of farm animals die in preventable fires enabled by industrial scale farming. Recent burn victims include 7,000 turkeys at a Butterball operation in North Carolina, 250,000 chickens at an Ohio Fresh Eggs facility, and 500,000 chickens at Moark Hatcheries in Colorado.”
The NFPA in 2012 proposed an amendment to the 2013 edition of NFPA 150: Standard of Fire & Fire Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities which would have required all newly-built farmed animal housing facilities to have both sprinklers and smoke control systems.
“NFPA already requires sprinklers in facilities housing animals like bears and elephants who can’t be easily moved,” observed Rosenberg. “But 15 big ag groups including the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, United Egg Producers, and cattle, pork, and dairy producers appealed against the NFPA proposal and it was scrapped. The reason? Animals’ lives are not worth the cost, says big ag.”
Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, alleged that installing the NFPA-recommended fire protection systems would bring “staggering costs in the billions of dollars,” said that many farms lack “sufficient water supply available to service an automated sprinkler system,” and even that installing such systems and “the sprinkler water itself” would spread disease, Rosenberg recalled.
In truth, the existing water supply system serving the animals at any farm could double as a sprinkler system just by adding heat-sensitive sprinkler heads. No more water would be needed than the water already in the supply lines.
United Poultry Concerns on February 10, 2014 posted a Change.org petition in support of the NFPA proposal, sent the NFPA a formal public comment about it, and urged other animal advocacy organizations to do likewise: http://www.upc-online.org/welfare/140210nfpa_petition.html.