Lourdes Mayor Henry Gaudon says the town’s residents can’t be expected to subsidize a free fire service to a community that asked to have the service stopped.
Gaudon wishes the Lourdes Fire Department had the ability to protect every home in the area that is not protected by another department.
The mayor was referring to a Friday blaze that destroyed a home at Piccadilly Head. The Lourdes department would not respond because that particular property is not part of an area that pays for fire coverage.
In addition to Lourdes, the town’s fire department provides coverage to the communities of Mainland, Three Rock Cove and West Bay. Gaudon said the three other communities collectively pay for fire service and the Lourdes department’s attendance at recent fires has shown the value of the service.
He said the fire department used to provide coverage to Piccadilly Head, but in 2011 the Local Service District notified the Town of Lourdes it no longer wanted the coverage.
“If you live in a Local Service District where the governing body says they don’t want the coverage, then you simply don’t provide it,” Gaudon said.
Back when his town provided the coverage, some volunteers from Piccadilly Head served on the Lourdes department, he said, adding that insurance rates drop for these areas when they avail of the service.
Lourdes Fire Department does provide coverage to 13 homes in Piccadilly Head for individuals who went to the town asking it to cover their properties. These residentds pay $100 a year for the coverage and the fire department will respond to fires at these locations.
Gaudon explained that it comes down to a liability issue. If the department was out fighting a fire at a “freebie” (as Gaudon called a property that has not paid for coverage), and a call came for a fire in its own coverage area, lawsuits could ensue if the department did not respond.
“Once the hose comes off the truck, the fire department is liable to stay at that first fire,” he said.
Gaudon said it wouldn’t be fair to those who are paying for the fire service for the department to go to a fire at a property that is not paying.
“With that said, there were eight firefighters who showed up when the call came in on Friday and were biting at the bit to go, and I was the one who made the decision for them not to,” the mayor said. “I’m the one who has to wear it if something goes wrong.”
Gaudon said personnel from the Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre did respond to the fire, but by the time they arrived at the location the fire had already done its damage.
If there was a person or animal in a building that was on fire, he added, the Lourdes department would be there without hesitation. Other than that, it has no authority to fight a fire in a residence that is not paying for the protection, he said.