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OHRIA Launches Barn Fire Safety Campaign

Press Release

Mississauga, January 15, 2004- Today members of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) launched an industry-wide barn fire safety program. The program promotes barn fire safety best practices through awareness campaigns, and educational and training seminars.

“All members of the horse racing industry – racetracks, horsepeople and breeders on the standardbred and thoroughbred side have signed the Barn Fire Safety Commitment Letter,” said Wendy Rinella, Executive Director of the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) “This commitment recognizes the importance of fire safety and prevention to ensure the well-being of horses and horsepeople, and protect the livelihood and investments of all the members of our industry.”

“As an organization representing horsepeople, we must work with the racetracks, training facilities and breed farmers to minimize the risk of fires and ensure that these are safe places for our members to work,” said Jim Whelan, President of the Ontario Harness Horse Association. “ In particular, we have zero tolerance for smoking in the barns and immediate vicinities. Barns and cigarettes do not mix.”

Conrad Cohen, President of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association (HBPA) agreed. “We need to take every precaution to ensure that our members and horses do not face tragedies in the future. The HBPA strongly urges all members of the horse racing family to implement these fire safety best practices.”

“The industry-wide fire safety program builds on the significant steps we have taken at Mohawk and Woodbine Racetracks to improve fire safety. New barns have been built with early fire detection devices and sprinklers; fire suppression equipment has been upgraded; and, track officials and back stretch workers have been trained in fire prevention and fire suppression,” said David S. Willmot, Chairman and CEO of the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

“We hired a fire safety manager, former Etobicoke Fire Prevention Chief Bob Webb to develop our programs and conduct fire training. To date almost 2,000 people have been trained,” continued Willmot.

Woodbine Fire Safety Manager Bob Webb has also acted as an expert advisor to the development of the horse racing industry barn fire safety tips posters and brochures. In Spring 2004, Webb will begin a tour of racetracks across Ontario as a Fire Safety and Prevention adviser to conduct information seminars to local horsepeople, breeders and racetrack officials.

"The objective of the training and awareness campaign is to encourage members of the horse racing community to incorporate fire prevention into their everyday routine," stated Bob Webb.

“ I encourage those involved in breeding across Ontario to attend these sessions and learn how they can reduce the risk of fire on their farms,” stated Glenn Sikura, President of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

In addition to the fire safety program, racetracks are required to have a fire safety plan in place as a condition of its racetrack licence from the Ontario Racing Commission.

Barn Fire Safety Tips posters and brochures and copies of the commitment letter have been distributed to all racetracks. These materials are also posted on PDF on the OHRIA website Members of the industry may request copies of the posters and brochures by contacting Theresa Awong at 905 812-0168. The training sessions will begin in Spring 2004.

The Ontario horse racing industry is the third largest segment of the provincial agricultural economy, providing more than 60,000 jobs. Annual expenditures of breeders and owners are in excess of $1.3 billion.

The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association (OHRIA) is an umbrella association that represents all segments of the horse racing industry. OHRIA seeks to further promote the horse racing industry as a vital part of Ontario's lifestyle, heritage, and agricultural economy.

OHRIA Member Associations are the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society; For-profit racetracks (Flamboro Downs, Fort Erie Racetrack, Georgian Downs, Hiawatha Horse Park, Kawartha Downs, Picov Downs, Rideau-Carleton Raceway, Sudbury Downs, Windsor Raceway); the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protection Association; Not-for-profit racetracks (Clinton Raceway, Dresden Harness Raceway, Elmira Raceway, Hanover Raceway, Quinte Exhibition & Raceway, Western Fair Raceway, Woodstock Harness Raceway); the Ontario Harness Horse Association; Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association and the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

For more information please go to or contact:

Wendy Rinella
Executive Director
Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association
Phone: 905-812-0168