Home Insurance

Smolder-prone insulation leaves man with $13,000 bill from fire department

By: Jessica Mach on February 11, 2019

An Edmonton homeowner was hit hard when a fire caused severe damage to his home in October, but the city’s fire department gave him another reason to be shocked when, a month following the incident, they handed him a bill for $13,000.

Woytek Stachowski was preparing an insurance claim for the fire when he received the invoice from Edmonton Fire Rescue Services. The $13,000 total included fees for a vacuum truck ($2,200), work lights ($285) and the carbon tax ($19).

Stachowski couldn’t believe his eyes. “I said maybe by mistake this came to me,” he said. “It’s not insurance paying, they ask me to pay.”

When CTV News reached out to Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, a spokesperson said that the bill was meant to cover the extra work that firefighters had to put in due to the cellulose insulation Stachowski used in his house, which typically smolders for hours.

To officially declare the fire out, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services also had to hire a contractor to take down the insulation — a costly service that the city’s firefighters find themselves taking up several times a month, as homes with similar insulation go up in flames. The service forces them to send homeowners invoices ranging from $11,000 to $13,000.

Contrary to Stachowski’s initial reaction, the bill had not mistakenly been sent to him instead of his insurance company.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services used to send the invoices to insurance companies, but lately, insurers have been pushing back — prompting the fire department to send them straight to homeowners instead.

As is the case in any other city, home insurance policies in Edmonton do not always cover all the services that a fire department performs.

Stachowski, for his part, has an insurance company that has agreed to pay the $13,000 bill. However, the money will come out of his settlement.

“I think as a taxpayer I shouldn’t get this at all,” he said of the invoice.

Mike Nickel, Stachowski’s local city councillor, agreed.

“If you’re paying taxes, isn’t that for firefighting? So why are they sending out a bill?” he asked.