The County of St. Paul intends to discuss fees for fire calls at an upcoming Public Works meeting after reviewing the charges for two separate fires during the April 13 regular council meeting.
Council is frequently asked to reduce the fees charged to property owners after the fire department is called to extinguish a fire. The County of St. Paul’s fire response fees are charged according to the rates set out by Alberta Transportation. The rate is $630 per hour for pumper trucks and rescue vehicles, which includes equipment, labour and materials. The rate is $185 per hour for command vehicles, which includes the labour.
“We seriously have to review our fire fees. It’s impossible to keep doing these every day,” said Div. 3 Coun. Cliff Martin.
“We need to get it done sooner rather than later, with the spring fire season coming up,” agreed Reeve Steve Upham, noting conditions are quite dry in the County and it could be “ugly if we don’t get some rain.”
Acting Director of Community Services Dennis Bergheim will make a presentation to council at the next public works meeting with his findings from surveying 11 other municipalities about their rates for fire response and comments from the local fire chiefs regarding invoicing.
Bill reduced to match insurance coverage
According to information provided to council, a house fire just south of St. Paul on Feb. 16 was a total loss for the homeowner. One person died as a result of the blaze after going back in to get keys for a vehicle. According to the report, during a second search of the building crews found him unconscious in a closet.
“Fire extinguishment proved challenging as the fire extended through the floor and chimney space. The entire floor truss system under the kitchen and living room area burned through making access to main floor impossible. Additionally, initial fire crews stated ceiling parts were coming down on them during initial fire attack,” reads the report signed by Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich.
The total cost for the fire response is $14,245.59, but according to the letter sent to council the homeowner’s insurance will pay a maximum of $10,000.
Insurance maximums for fire responses are commonplace in home and landowner policies.
Martin made a motion to reduce the bill to $10,000. The motion carried.
Bill reduced by 50 per cent for no insurance
According to information provided to council a fire in the Lake Eliza area on March 18 was reported as a grass fire. By the time crews arrived on scene, the fire had spread to a number of outbuildings.
“Appears the fire was a result of an electrical disruption at an outbuilding that contained an abandoned water well,” reads the report signed by Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich.
The total cost of the fire response is $6,670, but according to information provided to council the landowner does not have insurance. The owner requested the bill be reduced to $600.
Div. 1 Coun. Darrell Younghans said the cases where there is no insurance are even harder to deal with because it’s not fair to the people who do pay for insurance year after year.
Div. 2 Coun. Kevin Wirsta wondered if part of the challenge in the County is old buildings which are deteriorated and no longer in use.
“Why would you have fire insurance on buildings that aren’t even worth insuring,” he asked.
Div. 4 Coun. Maxine Fodness pointed out council did reduce the invoice for an Ashmont area homeowner with no insurance in February. She said she thought the fair thing to do would be to reduce the Mar. 18 fire invoice to cost recovery as they had done with the Ashmont fire.
Fodness made a motion to reduce the invoice by 50 per cent. The motion carried.