County retracts $25,000 bill to family for fire costs

A family in southern Alberta will no longer have to pay a bill of $25,000 that was issued by the fire departments called to save their ranch last summer.

Rocky View reeve urges residents to check fire insurance

A family in southern Alberta will no longer have to pay a bill of $25,000 that was issued by the fire departments called to save their ranch last summer.

On Wednesday, the reeve of Rocky View County admitted its administration made a mistake in issuing the bill.

"The billing shouldn’t have been sent out in the first place," said Rolly Ashdown.

"Second thing is nobody realized that insurance wasn’t going to cover them and the third thing is that there was no communication with it and after speaking to Mrs. Hixt this morning, I explained to her she wouldn’t have to pay that bill."

The ordeal started when the historic Grand 'Ole West Villa Ranch, located near Beiseker, was hit by lightning last July.

The family called 911, but it took more than an hour before emergency crews arrived from Rocky View County.

Ruth Hixt says three fire chiefs came with a lot of equipment.

Hixt says her family had no idea Rocky View has a cost recovery program.

"It makes me feel really sad towards our municipal government," she said in an interview before Rocky View retracted the bill.

"I'm kind of ticked off, I'm angry, I'm frustrated — I don't want to feel that way, but I'm not exactly sure how else to feel. And my husband is not well ... and to get this on top of it is really not fair." 

In the end, five buildings were destroyed.

Reviewing insurance plans

Ashdown is encouraging everyone living in Rocky View County to review their insurance.

Pat Walker, an insurance agency manager with Alberta Motor Association, says adding a firefighting expense endorsement can save people a lot of trouble.

"It will cover if the farmer is found to be legally liable for a grass fire that started on their property and moved off onto someone else's land," Walker said, adding the coverage to an existing farm policy doesn’t cost very much extra.

Rocky View County Fire Bylaw Services: