Nfld. & Labrador

Time to sort out regional fire services, says Municipalities N.L.

Firefighters from the Lourdes fire department did not answer to Tuesday’s blaze because the Piccadilly homeowners had not signed a contract with their department, Mayor Henry Gaudon told CBC News.

Neighbouring department did not respond to Picaddilly fire because there was no contract for service

A fire destroyed a home in Piccadilly early Tuesday morning.

The head of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador says Tuesday's house fire in Piccaddilly is just another example of an ongoing problem in rural parts of the province.

As the Piccadilly home burned to the ground Tuesday morning, the nearest neighbouring fire department did not respond.

Firefighters from the Lourdes couldn't act to save the house because the homeowners had not signed a contract with their department, Mayor Henry Gaudon told CBC News.

Instead, the Cape St. George Fire Department drove about 30 minutes to get to the Piccadilly home Tuesday, but the house was completely engulfed when first responders arrived.

Nobody wants to see anybody else go without in our province, but yet we're challenged to ensure that we live within our budgets.- Karen Oldford

No one was injured in the incident.

The Lourdes department will only cover their contracted areas, which doesn't include Piccadilly, and homeowners who independently sign a $100-a-year agreement for fire protection.

In 2014, Gaudon said the town could not answer outside calls because it would be leaving the contracted areas unprotected.

Searching for answers

Karen Oldford, president of MNL, says there needs to be some reasonable solution to ensuring homeowners in communities without local fire departments have fire coverage. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

It's not the first incident of its type in the area, and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador President Karen Oldford said similar situations involving emergency services are not new.

Last year, a home in Pinchgut Lake was flattened by fire and no department responded. A family was left without a home in Flat Bay in October, after their house burned to the ground without a fire department response.

"This is one that municipalities struggle with," said Oldford.

"Nobody wants to see anybody else go without in our province, but yet we're challenged to ensure that we live within our budgets."

This issue has been long-standing, she said, but there has been some new progress.

Oldford said the province is planning to hold consultations looking into regional governance and service-sharing in the coming months.

"We'd really like to find a solution, as we move forward, that will help to ensure that those emergency services are available," she said.

Oldford added it's only fair that people who are looking for emergency services pay for it through taxes.

"If you go and you build in an area that doesn't have a fire department covering it … and you take the chance to build there, then you do that with your eyes wide open."

With files from Colleen Connors