By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
The County of Stettler has voted to uphold a ratepayer’s fire invoice.
Stemming from an April 25th, 2020, fire department call out to a rural property where a previous brush fire had re-ignited, the owners of the property are questioning the $2,500 invoice they received from the County of Stettler.
“We feel that we had the fire contained before the fire department arrived,” wrote the property owner in a letter to council.
“We do appreciate the fact that the fire department attended to ensure the fire was fully extinguished; however, we are questioning the number of units deployed and the duration of the time spent.”
With the complaint, the Stettler Fire Department reviewed the call.
“Station 1, Stettler, provided an initial response using two brush units, an engine, and one 3,000-gallon tender,” wrote Fire Chief Mark Dennis in his report.
“At 1:07, Regional Fire Chief requested two tenders and one engine from Station 2, Big Valley, to assist with full extinguishment of the fire.”
According to the report made available to council, this response for this type of fire is “typical.”
A complicating issue in the complaint is that according to the fire department report, there was no previous burn permit for the location of the reignited fire.
“Through the process of completing this memo it has been determined there is no County of Stettler record of the owner obtaining a permit to burn the original brush pile,” wrote Dennis.
In a motion put forward by Coun. James Nibourg, council voted in favour of upholding the invoice, with Reeve Larry Clarke noting that, “The labour cost was not even covered by those numbers – $2,500 is a fairly low cost.”
Due to no record of a burn permit, Fire Chief Dennis noted in his report that the ratepayer could have been invoiced for the full cost of the fire response, instead of only a portion.
The full response for this incident would have been around $3,500, with Chief Dennis noting that total fire fighter wages for the incident would have been over $4,000, “Not including other expenses.”
“I think it’s important to make it clear with people we correspond with that the total of the capped amount is less than the actual cost,” said Coun. Les Stulberg.
Under a provision of the County of Stettler Fire Bylaw, the invoice amount is capped at $2,500.