An Edmonton man billed more than $12,000 after his house burned down won't have to pay after all.

That's after city council amended a fire services bylaw Monday to provide clarity on which expenses should be covered by the fire department — and which should be the responsibility of homeowners.

The amendment, which was passed unanimously, was brought forward by Coun. Mike Nickel after the home of one of his constituents was badly damaged in a fire in October 2018.

Woytek Stachowski was in the process of submitting his insurance claim when he received the $12,854.12 invoice that included items like a $2,200 vacuum truck, $285 work lights and even a $19 carbon tax charge.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said the bill was to cover higher-than-normal costs because the cellulose insulation used in the house meant it took extra work to extinguish the blaze.

Fire also had to hire a contractor to pull out the insulation.

Stachowski said at the time his insurance company offered to pay the bill but it would be deducted from his overall settlement.

But that changed after council's vote.

"Some of the services were above and beyond, for vacuum services, for pulling out the cellulose, for shovels, for gloves and things like that, and his insurance wasn't going to pay for it," Nickel recapped. "We determined today finally that yes, these services, if it's fighting the fire, you're not going to get an extra bill in the mail. It's part of your taxes."

The amendment will apply to four or five other similar situations where homeowners were billed, he said, but only amounts roughly $100,000 in costs for the city.

"It's just about common sense," said Nickel.

The amendment covers three specific expenses that were not previously referenced in the Fire Rescue Services Bylaw:

  • Fencing to secure the property and prevent public from entering unsafe areas
  • Heavy equipment and/or a trackhoe to move debris and prevents structures from falling outside of the secured area
  • Vacuum truck services to remove cellulose insulation

CTV News Edmonton has reached out to Stachowski for his reaction to Monday's vote.