Saint John pushes forward on bylaw to have some firefighting costs covered through insurance
The City of Saint John is looking to insurance companies to help recoup some of the costs associated with firefighting in the city.
A new bylaw is in the works which would enable the city to bill for certain services ranging from overtime, to equipment to the cost of water.
The city says the costs are already covered in most insurance premiums but until recently never pursued by fire departments.
A report to council indicates insurance companies commonly include provisions for fire department expenses ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
Despite the unanimous support of council, concern was expressed about adding additional stress to victims of fire.
“We don’t want to see the insurance companies start resisting and then start downloading it back onto individuals,” said Councillor Ray Strowbridge.
Fire Chief Kevin Clifford told council there would be no further burden on homeowners because the premiums have already been paid. But Strowbridge predicts push back from insurance companies.
“Insurance companies in my experience are not very quick to write you a cheque,” he added.
The industry is in fact speaking out, urging homeowners who do have coverage to check their plans.
“There may be policies that do have coverage for this type of service or type of invoice or bill,” said Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“Other policies may not. There may be certain limits”
And Karageorgos says the policy holder could still pay in the end.
“Because if costs for claims increase because of the charges that could also be reflected on people’s home insurance premiums going up.”
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The city believes it can recover at least $80,000 per year with the new method.
Saint John Mayor Don Darling doesn’t think that will tip the scales on premiums.
“If somebody’s putting a claim in, I doubt that a thousand or two or three thousand dollars on top of the claim that’s been entered for their insurance coverage is going to be the sole factor that puts the premium up,” Darling said.
If Saint John proceeds with this by-law it would be the first community in New Brunswick to put one in place although others are said to be considering it.
Some communities in Ontario are already going after a portion of the firefighting costs.