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Council wants bylaw reviewed after Edmonton man gets $12,000 bill from fire department

Click to play video: 'Edmonton man fighting back after getting bill from fire department' Edmonton man fighting back after getting bill from fire department
WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton man is fighting back after the fire department billed him for some of the costs of battling a fire in his home. Julia Wong reports – Jul 4, 2019

Having a fire at your home is one thing. Suddenly getting a bill from the city for more than $12,000 is another.

Edmonton City Council has asked administration to review the bylaw that covers the work the fire department does, after Woytek Stachowski received an invoice following an Oct. 25, 2018 house fire in the Sakaw neighbourhood in southeast Edmonton.

“There are two different things,” Stachowski fumed Thursday in a phone interview. “One, why we need to pay. And second, how they charge us.

“This was very unprofessionally done.”

READ MORE: South Edmonton home damaged after fire breaks out

What Stachowski is steamed about was the listing of 23 items on the invoice, many involving the cleanup after the fire.

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“They just sent me blank invoice with all those items and asked to pay $12,000. Then after I called them, they make a correction and send me invoice with my name and address.”

Also sent to Stachowski by the department was the fire bylaw’s “Schedule C,” which includes things like false alarms and handling of hazardous materials.

“We’re not talking about hazardous waste or something like that that they discovered on site that shouldn’t be there,” Councillor Mike Nickel said after tabling his motion to have the fire bylaw reviewed.

Watch below: A family escaped a house fire in southeast Edmonton in October 2018 

Click to play video: 'Edmonton fire causes extensive damage to home' Edmonton fire causes extensive damage to home
Edmonton fire causes extensive damage to home – Oct 26, 2018

The fire department said it had to deal with “the removal of cellulose fiber insulation,” according to a subsequent letter sent to Stachowski by Deputy Fire Chief of Public Safety Russell Croome.

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It justified the move, “to reduce the risk of secondary fires caused by embers concealed by the insulation, and in this case the removal was necessary as determined by the on scene Fire Command.”

In a statement to Global News, the fire department said a contractor was required to remove the insulation.

“Unfortunately, the landlord/homeowner’s insurance company has chosen not to cover the associated costs,” the statement reads.

“When I talked to chief [Ken] Block he said this is the regular course of business and it’s usually paid out by insurance,” Nickel said. “To which I replied, ‘I don’t pay taxes so we can have insurance companies subsidize my fire department.’ That doesn’t make any sense to me, so that’s where we got into this ‘what’s in what’s out’ part.”

Stachowski’s insurance is only covering $1,500 of the $12,000 bill. He said he had that specific type of insulation installed in his home because it’s environmentally friendly and safe. It’s a product produced by Can-Cell Industries, which recycles newsprint to make the insulation.

Karl Tiemstra, Can-Cell’s vice-president of operations, said the insulation is made so fire doesn’t spread as quickly, although more needs to happen to snuff it out.

“It takes more to put the fire out, but generally when that happens the house would last much longer in a fire and there would be more to save on the house.”

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A report to city council should be back in two to three months. Until then, the $12,000 charge is on hold.

Firefighters were called to a south Edmonton house fire on 56 Street on Oct. 25, 2018. Sarah Kraus/ Global News
Firefighters were called to a south Edmonton house fire on 56 Street on Oct. 25, 2018. Sarah Kraus/ Global News
Firefighters were called to a south Edmonton house fire on 56 Street on Oct. 25, 2018. Sarah Kraus/ Global News

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