A fire ripped through Plaza 138 January 12, completely destroying several local businesses. While firefighters from the Kahnawake Fire Brigade worked to quell the raging flames, surrounding departments (joined by a mutual aid agreement) helped deal with the situation.
When the ashes had died, another fire arose.
“Since we’ve joined the mutual aid (with surrounding municipalities) officially, it’s come down to billing, payment for services,” said KFB chief David Scott. “The plaza fire was the first fire since we signed the agreement where we had to call in surrounding fire departments and we received invoices for their services.”
The problem is that the KFB does not receive funding to compensate for this type of a bill.
“According to Indian Affairs, funding is only given for residences, and not for businesses on the territory,” said Scott. “We do not have a budget to cover calling in outside resources for fires at businesses.”
The fire brigade, thus, initiated an assessment of the number businesses in Kahnawake, what kind of businesses they are and the square footage of the property.
“For the most part, it’s well-received, but there are a couple of places that have refused information or entry into a business,” said Scott.
“We need to somehow let businesses owners know that they need to ensure that they have coverage on their insurance for emergency response because there is going to be billing going on if we have to call on outside resources. There’s no reason why the fire department should be paying bills that a business should have insurance for.”
Mohawk Council of Kahnawake Rhonda Kirby brought the issue to the council table.
“It’s something that I think needs to be done because we don’t really know all of the businesses in town, and to help the businesses themselves identify where their accesses are, so when the fire brigade does have to go in, they actually know what goes on in each of the buildings in town,” said Kirby.
Businesses are under no obligation to purchase insurance at the moment, before opening shop.
“We’re hoping that each business owner does have insurance and that’s something that we’re going to be looking into, as part of this assessment,” said Kirby.
Kirby admitted that insurance is often an issue for businesses on territory, but said to be vigilant with insurance companies, and avoid operating without insurance.
“People need to know about insurance companies that just because they say they’re going to drop you, they’re obligated,” said Kirby.
The KFB, in turn, will bill outside communities if firefighters are called upon to leave Kahnawake.
“If we get called out, we’re going to bill them, and put any funds that we generate into a separate account, so that if we have to call in Chateauguay or St. Isidore for a fire at a residence, we will be able to cover that off with the funds that we generate from going outside of the community,” said Scott.
Scott added a word to those hesitant to share information.
“We’re doing it for the fire department,” he said. “We’re not doing it for anybody else. Any information is confidential. It’s important that we actually know what’s going on in the business, so if we have to respond to it.
“We’re doing it for our men, for their safety, so that we can know what’s going on with the building. In their insurance policy there has to be a section where they are covered for emergency services and response. That is very important.”