12 March 2014
Dawn Bellis, Secretary
National Fire Protection Association
1 Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MA 02169
Via Email: DBellis@NFPA.org
Re: NFPA 150, Standard on Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities: Support for “Certified Amending Motion 150-1” (Proposals 150-11, 150-13, 150-14 and 150-15)
Dear Secretary Bellis:
I am respectfully submitting this letter to you on behalf of United Poultry Concerns to urge the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee to amend its 150 Standard for Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities to require sprinklers and smoke control systems in all newly-constructed housing facilities for Category B animals. Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the millions of defenseless animals who
suffer and die in fires each year due to the lack of fire protection in the buildings in which they are housed.
The majority of Category B animals are housed in facilities from which they cannot escape when a fire breaks out. Because thousands of chickens, turkeys, pigs and other farmed animals are typically confined in a single building, the number of sentient individuals who suffer and die in preventable fires each year exceeds all other categories of fire victims. For example:
- On January 31, 2014, 300,000 egg-laying hens trapped in one of 14 caged-hen buildings died in a massive fire at the S&R Egg Farm in La Grange, Wisconsin.
WISN News report
- On February 26, 2014, 1000 pigs burned and suffocated to death in buildings at a farm owned by Joe Ward in Cutler, Indiana.
RTV6 News report
- On March 27. 2013, 6000 baby chicks burned to death at a Perdue facility in Pocomoke City, Maryland.
Delaware Online report
- On December 20, 2012, 25,000 turkeys confined in a single building died in a fire in Timberville, Virginia. This episode was typical of virtually all fires in which agricultural animals die horribly: “The poultry house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene.”
WTOP News report
These are just some examples of the vast numbers of animals who have died in the past three years in the approximately 7,000 fires that occur in farmed animal housing facilities each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, Topical Fire Research Series “Agricultural Fires,” November 2001 (Rev. March 2002), “Agricultural Storage Fires,” January 2001 (Rev. December 2001).
Burning alive is an agonizing way to die. For animals in confined housing operations – the primary farmed animal housing system in the U.S. – the death they endure is unfathomable in its cruelty. Searing heat, slow asphyxiation, pain and terror – there could not be a crueler fate. In a fire, the animals shriek loudly, bang desperately against the bars of their cages and pile on one another in their panic and fear at being helplessly trapped and killed. Adding to their suffering is the fact that they are typically all alone in their helplessness when a fire breaks out in a building they cannot escape from. Millions of chickens, turkeys, pigs and other farmed animal fire victims are incarcerated in buildings in remote rural locations where few or no human beings are within sight or sound of their suffering.
Nothing speaks more clearly to the lack of responsible care, ethics and compassion toward the animals at their mercy – hence the need for the NFPA to use its authority to require responsible fire protection for these helpless animals – than the unwillingness of farmed animal owners to install systems that could prevent their animals from burning and suffocating to death in fires from which they cannot escape. In August 2012, dozens of cows and calves burned to death on dairy farms in New York State. Cows suffering from smoke inhalation at one operation were neither euthanized nor given veterinary care. Dairy Herd News reported on August 7 that these poor cows were left to suffer unattended, until “picked up to be sold at auction as beef cattle.” For sample coverage of dairy cow facility fires, see:
Efforts in 2012 to Protect Category B Animals from Preventable Fires
In his address to the NFPA Technical Session on June 14, 2012, Joe Scibetta, a principal member of the technical committee for NFPA 150, stated passionately and accurately on behalf of his proposal to protect Category B animals with sprinklers and smoke control systems:
“When caught in a fire, animals don’t understand why they can’t breathe or why they are in such agony. They do, however, perceive and are conscious of the terrible sensations of burning, suffocation, and pain. . . . In commercial animal housing facilities, when we confine animals to suit human purposes, we have an obligation to secure fire protection for them, especially due to the fact that in most of the recent … animal housing fire cases, humans were not on hand to effect rescue.”
Mr. Scibetta’s proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed by a Technical Committee floor vote of 126-46 until the agribusiness lobby derailed the proposed amendment claiming it would cost too much to protect the animals they are responsible for protecting while disingenuously insisting that sprinklers and smoke control systems would not likely benefit the welfare, health, and safety of billions of incarcerated animals when a fire breaks out.
On July 27, 2012, United Poultry Concerns, joined by 12 other animal protection groups, filed an Appeal prepared by attorney David Simon, urging the NFPA to uphold the original floor amendment calling for installation of fire protection systems in all newly-constructed farmed animal housing facilities:
Appeal to uphold fire protection ammendment. [PDF]
The Humane Society of the United States submitted an independent Appeal dated July 31, 2012.
On August 7, 2012, UPC President Karen Davis spoke on behalf of our Appeal at the NFPA’s Standards Council Meeting, in Quincy, Massachusetts. She urged the NFPA to adopt the amendment, noting that “farmers have an ethical duty to protect the animals whose lives they have exclusive control over, and installing sprinklers and smoke-control systems is a minimal, yet fundamental, part of that duty.” For additional background, please see
Wisconsin Couple Saved from Fire by Pet Chicken
Fox News article
On December 27, 2012 a Wisconsin family’s pet hen, Cluck Cluck, alerted the family with her loud cries that a fire had broken out at their home. Homeowner Dennis Murawska said he didn’t know about the fire, which started in the attic of the attached garage, until he heard the loud clucks coming from the hen in her cage in the basement in the early morning hours. Though the house was a total loss, “it could have been worse – if not for the chicken,” according to the report. Fire Chief Jeff Gaede was quoted: “We are used to hearing about a dog or cat … but we never heard of a chicken waking up a resident for a fire. That’s pretty amazing.”
If the alarm cries of one single hen could be heard two floors from where the Wisconsin family lay sleeping, imagine the sound of many thousands of hens trapped in a building with nobody responding to their screams, and no fire protection, as they asphyxiate and burn to death.
We Call Upon the NFPA to Protect Category B Animals from Preventable Fires
The argument put forth by United Poultry Concerns and other concerned organizations and individuals, urging the NFPA to require sprinklers and smoke control systems in facilities housing Category B animals, is clear and substantial. Category B animals are sentient, emotional, cognitively complex individuals who deserve the same protection as Category A animals from preventable fires. Due to their being locked by the hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands in single buildings from which they cannot escape when a fire breaks out, the number of Category B animals who suffer and die each year in preventable fires exceeds every other category of fire victims. They need and deserve the fire protection that the NFPA can provide.
It is appalling that millions of helpless chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, cows and other sentient individuals should be punished and morally abandoned because of the confinement facilities human beings force them to live in – facilities and attendant conditions which are then invoked by agribusiness as justifications for increasing, instead of mitigating, the inhumane circumstances imposed on these animals.
For all of the reasons presented, we respectfully urge the Technical Committee on Animal Housing Facilities to adopt Proposals in the current revision cycle that will require that all newly-constructed animal housing facilities must be equipped with sprinklers and smoke control systems. As Technical Committee member Joe Scibetta stated unequivocally in 2012, “When we confine animals to suit human purposes, we have an obligation to secure fire protection for them.” We urge the NFPA to ensure that this obligation is fulfilled in its current deliberations.
Thank you for your attention and consideration. We look forward to your response.
Karen Davis, PhD
United Poultry Concerns
12325 Seaside Road, PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405