Resident must pay firefighting bill

The regional fire chief noted this graphic is a Google map of the Apr. 25, 2020 incident and doesn’t represent the actual ground cover conditions of the fire incident regarding the time of year this event occurred. ECA Review/Google Maps
Written by Stu Salkeld

Stettler county council upheld a firefighting bill sent to a resident after the property owner requested the bill be reduced. 

The decision was made at the Feb. 10 regular meeting of council streamed via the county’s YouTube channel.

Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk presented the request regarding a fire on April 25, 2020 in the form of a letter from Keith Haustein, which also had other information blacked out. 

The letter read, “As soon as we were informed of the fire, my husband immediately took the tractor over and pushed trees to contain it and at the same time my son used our cultivator to push dirt onto the area.

“We feel that we had the fire contained before the fire department arrived. 

“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. 

“We do not feel that it was necessary for all units to stay the entire eight plus hours.

“We would like to request a review of the invoice amount and a reduction in the amount to something that would be fairer and more accurate under the circumstances.”

An email from Regional Fire Chief Mark Dennis was included in the report and noted 911 got a call April 25 about a large wild land fire at SW13-39-22W4. 

“The origin of this fire was from a previously burnt brush pile located on the west side of the fire,” noted the fire chief. 

“Given the dry conditions, wind speed (estimated gusts of 33 km/hr to 50 km/hr), wind direction, size of the fire area, number of trees crowning and avenues for fire to spread, it was determined the fire could not be left to burn on its own.” 

The fire chief also noted, “…there is no County of Stettler record of the owner obtaining a permit to burn the original brush pile.”

The fire chief’s email noted Haustein could have been billed $3,505 for the incident, but the department only billed him $2,500, with the fire chief noting firefighter wages alone for the incident totalled $4,011.

Brysiuk stated the fire chief told him the response and billing was justified.

Coun. James Nibourg noted the resident didn’t have a burn permit for the original fire, so he made a motion to uphold the original invoice amount.

Reeve Larry Clark stated he felt the fire department was already billing a small amount as it is, adding that $2,500 for a fire response is “fairly low.”

Coun. Les Stulberg stated perhaps the county could, when they receive requests like this, let the property owner know the firefighting costs are already being subsidized.

Councillors unanimously passed Nibourg’s motion.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.