Kitchener-Waterloo

Electrical failure to blame for January 2016 Puslinch barn fire

An electrical failure is to blame for the fire that destroyed a barn and killed more than 40 racehorses in Puslinch almost a year ago, according to a report by Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal.

Flames ripped through barn at Classy Lane Stables on Jan. 4, 2016

An aerial shot of the aftermath of the barn fire taken from a drone. (David Ritchie/CBC)

An electrical failure is to blame for the fire that destroyed a barn and killed more than 40 racehorses in Puslinch almost a year ago, according to a report by Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal.

Flames ripped through Barn 1 at Classy Lane Stables on Jan. 4, 2016, reducing the structure to a pile of ash in a matter of hours.

Puslinch Fire Chief Steve Goode reviewed the report with lead investigator Manuel Garcia two months ago and said the fire began in the northeast corner of the building, in what was both a storage area and staff room.

According to the Fire Marshal's report, the fire began in the northeast corner of the barn, in what was both a storage area and staff room. (David Ritchie/CBC)

"It served as a little bit of a kitchen area for refreshments," he said, "and there was equipment such as saddles and harnesses."

Although the fire could have been caused by a simple failure of the building's electrical supply, Goode said it could also have started in one of the kitchen's three appliances. 

The fire was caused by either a general failure of the electrical system, or a failure of one of the kitchen appliances. (Natalie Kalata/CBC)

"Specifically, there was a microwave and a minifridge and a stereo that was connected to an extension cord," he said, adding that the fire could also have started in the extension cord itself.

While Goode said it's impossible to know exactly where the fire started, it is possible to know how it progressed so quickly through the building.

How the fire grew

"Puslinch Fire Rescue Services, with the University of Waterloo, we had an opportunity to burn a barn down, and we did some research regarding barn fires, and we determined that a barn could be fully involved within four minutes of ignition."

Goode said that when the fire at Classy Lane was first reported, it was already past its "start up" stage. High winds, a dry wooden structure, and lots of other "combustables" within the barn meant that the fire had plenty of fuel.

Fire Chief Steve Goode said the fire at Classy Lane struck him and some of his firefighters personally. (David Ritchie/CBC)

"I've seen an awful lot of fire devastation," he said. "This one really struck me personally, and I know it struck some of our firefighters. We were feeling pretty low."

But Goode is encouraged by the changes that he has seen happen at Classy Lane since the fire. 

He said the facility has installed sprinkler systems in all of its barns, as well as an alarm system to notify staff in case of a fire on the property.