Ontario city seeks direct insurer payments to fire departments

Published: August 31, 2018

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To what degree should home insurance companies be on the hook if their clients property is damaged or destroyed by fire? According to the city of Port Colborne in southern Ontario, insurers should be picking up the bill in a more direct way.

More specifically, the city says home insurers must pay for fire services given to property owners who are customers. Councillors in Port Colborne passed a recommendation by a local broker, McAvoy, Belan and Campbell. The broker wants firefighting and other fire services to work directly with insurers to recover costs.

In its recommendation, the broker pointed to data showing the fire department in the city handles and average of 30 property fires each year. Under the new proposed system, between 15 to 20 of those fires would fall under insurer compensation.

According to Fire Chief Tom Cartwright, the average cost of each fire is around $13,000.

"I believe we would be pretty successful in getting the money back ourselves," the chief said.

One alternative to the approach was offered by McAvoy. Namely, the fire department could use a “hybrid approach” that would see the department deal directly with homeowners to see if they are making a home insurance claim. If they are, the department could be included in the claim.