An Alberta woman has demanded a review after private firefighting crews handed her a bill totalling over $28,000 for a blaze that gutted her one-storey home last April.
Joanne Blanchfield’s official invoice from the private fire department lists over $27,000 in expenses, but her insurance agent says the final number is over $28,000.
“I knew I was going to get charged something, but I certainly didn’t expect a bill totalling over $28,000,” Blanchfield told CTV Edmonton on Monday. “My adjustor indicated that he’s never heard of a bill this high.”
The Silver Sands, Alta. resident has called for the community to review the charges in hopes of knocking down the cost.
Approximately a dozen fire trucks from four different municipalities showed up at Blanchfield’s house fire last April. The invoice lists several costs associated with that large response, including charges for the pumper truck, gas mileage for the vehicles and wages for the firefighters.
The tiny village of Silver Sands has been covered by a private fire department called North West Fire and Rescue since 2016.
Fire chief David Ives says the department is not designed to make money, but he understands why Blanchfield might be feeling some sticker shock.
“I would be surprised by that bill. It’s a big bill, for sure,” he told CTV Edmonton.
He said the urgency of the initial 911 call dictated the number of trucks that showed up.
“The call came in as an Echo call, which is the highest priority call – confirmed structure fire, unknown circumstance,” he said.
Ives added that his fire department’s rates are comparable to or cheaper than other service providers.
“I feel for her that she’s staring down the barrel of a substantial loss, but from our point of view we went out and did our job.”
According to the village, the average cost of fire department services can be approximately $5,000-$15,000 for a structure fire.
An official review of the bill is slated for the fall.
In the meantime, Blanchfield is preparing to rebuild her house, which was covered by insurance. She’s also warning neighbours to be careful of fires, lest they lose their belongings and are forced to pay the fire department as well.
“They need to be aware that if they have a fire, this is what they could be looking at,” she said. “It’s not reasonable.”
With files from CTV Edmonton