Man claims FortisBC gas line installed in wrong place, still on the hook for damaging it

A severed natural gas line is seen in a still image from a FortisBC YouTube video.

A man who damaged a FortisBC gas main has been ordered to cover the cost of the repairs, despite arguing it was installed several feet "out of line" with the original design plan.

B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal, which handles small claims cases under $5,000, said the crux of the issue was Herbert Fischer's failure to contact BC 1 Call before digging into his property with an excavator.

Missing that step – which is free and mandatory in many outdoor projects, big and small – resulted in Fischer striking a FortisBC service line in February 2021, causing upwards of $2,300 in damage.

And while the homeowner claimed the gas main was 4'5" away from the path specified in design documents, in an area north of a hydro poll that he expected was free and clear, tribunal vice-chair Shelley Lopez said the issue was moot.

"He says the damage resulted because Fortis installed the gas line in a different spot than set out on a design plan. Yet, there is no evidence that Fortis was obliged to follow that designer's plan," Lopez wrote in her decision, which was posted online this week.

"Since Mr. Fischer undisputedly did not call BC 1 Call as required to identify the gas main's location before attempting to dig, I find he breached the standard of care."

Fischer, who had been trying to install an underground powerline on his property, told the tribunal he made "numerous calls" to FortisBC before beginning work, but none that fulfilled his obligations under the province's Gas Safety Regulation.

Under the law, homeowners are required to file a request with BC 1 Call at least two business days before digging, then wait to receive clearance to proceed.

British Columbians can do so online, or by phoning 1-800-474-6886 Monday to Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

FortisBC asked that Fischer pay $2,341 for the subsequent repairs, including $2,003 for labour and fieldwork. The tribunal approved that amount, plus $125 in fees and $11 in pre-judgment interest, but minus a $37 charge listed as "overtime meal" in the utility provider's breakdown of the expenses.

"I do not allow the overtime meal as I find no legal basis to hold Mr. Fischer responsible for Fortis' workers' meal breaks," Lopez wrote.

FortisBC advises homeowners to call the BC 1 Call hotline before proceeding with major projects such as installing a deck or fire pit, and even those as minor as "just planting a few perennials."