No fire services in Pinchgut Lake 'a major concern,' says homeowner

The homeowners association in Pinchgut Lake says if residents knew they would have no permanent fire services, they wouldn't live there.
Rubble is all that remains of a home in Pinchgut Lake that was destroyed by fire on Thursday. Residents tried to contain the fire using garden hoses and buckets of water, because there was no response from the Corner Brook fire department. (CBC)

The president of the homeowners association in Pinchgut Lake says no one would have decided to live there, if they thought there would be no fire services available. 

Earlier this week, a fire destroyed a $500,000 home in the area just 20 kilometres outside Corner Brook. There was no fire department response.

Seven people lived in the home, but no one was injured. The homeowner also had fire insurance.

"It was a tragedy, fortunately no lives were lost and the winds were light and in a favourable direction," said Steve Hutchinson, chair of the property owners association in Pinchgut Lake.

"It could have been much worse."

The Corner Brook Fire Department was told not to respond to the fire because of a policy that was introduced at the beginning of the summer, regarding responding to calls outside the city's limits.
A $500,000 home in Pinchgut Lake, about 20 kilometres outside Corner Brook, burned to the ground on Thursday. (Submitted)

That policy initially started when one of the city's pumper trucks went out of service.

No back-up meant no ability to provide help to neighbouring areas, but on June 30, Mayor Charles Pender said once the fire fleet is back to full service, the city would still no longer help any outside areas.

"The days of the City of Corner Brook being overly generous and going to those communities that surround us and saying we'll help you out for free, have I guess, come to an end," said Pender.

'Significant cost'

So far this year Corner Brook responded to 11 out-of-city calls, at a cost of $50,000. The fire department had been helping fight fires in outside communities for 50 years, but Pender said that has to stop.
Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender says his city can't afford to respond to calls of fires outside the boundary without any way to pay for it. (CBC)

"At the end of the day, it's the citizens of Corner Brook who are paying for these services," he said.

"It costs us about $3.8-million a year. That's about 13 per cent of our overall budget — a significant cost to us." 

Meanwhile, Hutchinson said there was a fire similar to this one in Pinchgut Lake back in March.

Firefighters from Corner Brook responded, put out the fire and billed the homeowner $3,700 for the service.

"We certainly don't have the means to generate the sort of equipment that a municipality like Corner Brook would have," said Hutchinson.

"We are grateful to pay any cost that Corner Brook would incur providing service to us when it's necessary."

Hoping to come to agreement

Hutchinson said if people in Pinchgut Lake knew there was a chance they wouldn't be covered in case of a fire, they wouldn't live there.
Steve Hutchinson, president of the homeowners association in Pinchgut Lake, says if people thought they wouldn't have fire services in the area, they wouldn't have decided to live there. (CBC)

"If that was never the case and we never had fire protection out there in the past, I think there would be a lot less people investing their money in big places out there having no fire protection," he said.

"It's a major concern."

Mayor Pender said his concern lies with the fire bill in those kinds of cases, adding the city rarely sees the money.

Hutchinson said he plans to try reaching out to the mayor and make a plan so the homeowners are covered in case of a fire.

With files from Colleen Connors