'I thought we did everything right': Why a bar owner was forced to pay for customer's false fire alarm
Workers tried to stop firefighters from coming after angry customer pulled alarm
Refusing to serve a few intoxicated patrons is now costing bar owner Kristine Lukanchoff nearly $1,500 because she says those rowdy visitors pulled the fire alarm, causing the city to slap her with a faulty fire alarm bill.
The incident happened last November when Lukanchoff says her staff at The Old Nick on Danforth Avenue asked some men to leave.
"One of the guys started flipping out and swearing and causing a big scene," said Lukanchoff. "He went outside and started smashing the window and then came back in, pulled the fire alarm and ran away."
Immediately, Lukanchoff says servers called 911 to let them know the alarm was false, but the operator didn't call off the crews.
Calling police could have waived the bill
Toronto Fire Services spokesperson Stephan Powell, says crews respond to all incidents whether requests are cancelled or not, adding in an email to CBC Toronto that "it is not possible to remotely determine whether the incident is a nuisance/malicious false alarm, or a real emergency."
That night, Lukanchoff says only one truck arrived at the bar but the bill she got on Jan. 7 was for three — $477 per vehicle. She says the city told her it sent out three trucks and when the first discovered it was a false alarm, the other two were turned around.
However, if Lukanchoff had called police to report that the alarm was pulled by angry patrons, she likely wouldn't have had to pay the fee, since it would have been considered vandalism.
"It's really frustrating," said Lukanchoff. "I would have preferred a warning."
Bars and homeowners used to get warnings
Ten years ago, people were given initial warnings and weren't charged if it was the first time crews arrived at a false alarm at a particular location.
But false calls are costly to the city, so the bylaw was changed. Now when firefighters are dispatched to a false alarm, home and business owners are hit with the bill, up to a maximum of $1,431 — the cost of three trucks.
Powell says the fee can be disputed by emailing the city. But Lukanchoff says she tried that and her claim was rejected.
"I've been here 17 years and this never happened … I thought we did everything right."