Massachusetts Barn Fire Claims Five Calves, Heat Lamps Deemed Cause

Used to help keep calves warm during the frigid temps of winter, a heating lamp was determined to be the cause of a devastating barn fire in Westfield, Massachusetts.

After discovering the blaze, the owners of Pemeroy Dairy Farm did their best to evacuate the animals from the barn, however, five calves were lost in the flames.

While firefighters tried to save as much as the barn as they could, it was deemed a total loss, according to Western Mass News. Because of the farm’s rural location, a shortage of hydrants made it more difficult to extinguish the flames. It’s estimated that nearly $350,000 of damage was caused.

Heat lamps, generally defined, are portable hanging fixtures with bulbs in them (usually 150-250vw.) While they can be helpful to warm up calves in a pinch, they can also be very dangerous when not used responsibly.

Here are a few things you should take into consideration before using heat lamps on the farm, according to Cornell University’s Small Farms Program.

  • Don’t use cheap poorly made heat lamps. Lamps with short thin cords, poor connections to the fixture, unreliable attachment points for hanging and just general cheap construction are more prone to starting fires.
  • Secure them like they are permanent. Use chains and not twine. Keep them out of the way of livestock that can disturb them.
  • Use heat lamps in buildings that are isolated from other buildings.
  • Put a smoke detector in all buildings with the potential of fire.
  • Have at least one fire extinguisher at main entrances of all buildings.
  • Review your insurance policy and make sure you know what coverage you do and don’t have.

To see just how quickly a barn fire can happen, watch this video of a “busted light bulb” that gave the owners of Zwemmer Dairy Farms quite a scare. Fortunately, watchful leys and great teamwork allowed for the fire to be put out before getting out of hand.

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