As a barn containing 12,000 pigs burned to the ground near Herschel Friday night, volunteer firefighters from Rosetown watched from a nearby access road.
An employee from the Eagle Creek Farm, where the barn’s located, told the fire crew not to come on to the property.
According to Saskatchewan’s Fire Safety Act, Rosetown Fire Chief Dennis Ogg had the power to overrule the employee. He decided, however, to have his crew back off.
“Judging the reaction of this guy who didn’t want us on his property, and no chance of salvaging anything, I was concerned about the safety of my people,” Ogg said.
When asked if he was concerned the employee may attack, he replied with “who knows.”
“You don’t know, is there a grow op out there? A meth lab? Lots of stuff goes on in rural Saskatchewan,” he said.
“We’re going to have to start being careful.”
The barn was a complete loss, along with the pigs. No cost estimates for the damage have been made yet.
Section 18 of the Fire Safety Act stipulates firefighters can “without a warrant … enter … on land or into any premises where that fire or emergency is occurring.”
Duane McKay, the province’s emergency management and fire safety commissioner, said not even a property owner has the right to stop firefighters from entering to battle a blaze.
“If necessary, the fire department can ask a peace officer to help them to enter into those properties,” he said.
The Fire Safety Act adds anyone who tries to stop firefighters can face a fine of $5,000.
While McKay couldn’t provide specifics on the pig barn fire, he said provincial fire investigators were on scene to try and determine the cause of the blaze.
The Quebec-based company that owns the farm, Olymel, told 650 CKOM the fire has led to a complete loss of operations at the site.
Spokesman Richard Vigneault added they’re trying to figure out why an employee told the firefighters not to come onto the property.
“I couldn’t tell you why now, I can just tell you one employee was terminated,” he said.
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Carr.