It could soon cost vacant building owners in Winnipeg thousands of dollars if there is a fire on their property – a move the city hopes will push them to better secure the properties and fix up the homes.
A new report at Winnipeg City Hall is recommending changes to a bylaw that would bill a property owner following a blaze.
The report says this is meant to encourage owners to better secure the houses which are prone to criminal activity like vandalism and arson.
“The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service may be able to recover some or all of the costs associated with these repetitive and often avoidable fire incidents,” says the report.
It says between 2019 and 2021 there were 118 vacant structure fires, with estimated costs of $1.4 million – meaning a single fire could amount to fees close to $15,000.
“We have had buildings that have been burned more than once, two and even three times and that response takes our personnel away from calls and puts them at a level of risk that we shouldn’t have to bear,” Scott Williamson, assistant chief with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
The proposed bylaw lists attendance fee amounts to be charged for a district chief and driver at $340 per hour, and for various emergency vehicles at $1,357 per hour.
There will be exemptions for fires that started on another property, are caused by natural disasters, or when a vehicle collides with the building.
“We’re in a housing crisis, so for sure buildings should not be sitting vacant,” said Coun. Sherri Rollins, chair of the city’s property and development committee.
Rollins said she hopes this will help, but said she is open to increasing the fees if need be.
“I want it tough as nails because these buildings can be dangerous when the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service have to go in,” she said.
The bylaw is set to be voted on at the city’s property committee next week.