City charges building owner $96,000 after massive fire

Credit: Scott Evans/KTVB

City charges building owner $96,000 after massive fire

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Updated Thursday, May 23 at 2:29 PM

JEROME -- Who's paying for putting out a massive apartment fire in downtown Jerome a few weeks back?

The fire department says the building's owner, or her insurance company should pay for the cost to fight the city's largest fire in history.

On April 30, a downtown apartment building caught fire, and crews spent days putting out the fire and clearing the streets. Fire investigators say the fire started after a tenant left a hot glue gun on a plastic chair and forgot about it. The fire displaced around a dozen families.

Sylvia Moore is the building's owner. She's had the property for 15 years, buying it as an investment property. She had an antique and second-hand store in the building.

"It was perfect for what I wanted. I could live there, have my store, have an income, and have my retirement all in one package," Moore said.

The fire was devastating to her because of the displaced families, ruined historic building, and her retirement plan gone. Then, over the weekend she found out there would be even more of a financial hit when she was billed nearly $100,000 by the City of Jerome.

"I have to say this shocks me as much as the fire," Moore said. "Everything's gone... And now? And now a $100,000 bill for a fire I had nothing to do with. I don't think I need to be penalized for that. I didn't start a fire."
 
Moore gave KTVB a copy of her bill that includes three pages of Itemized costs including paying firefighters, police, equipment costs, and food during the several-day response.

"If that's happening to me, is it going to happen to other people in Jerome? You think you've got a fire department that's paid with your tax money... I don't know what to think. Really I don't," Moore said.
   
Jerome Fire Chief Jack Krill, who according to the invoice billed 67 hours on the fire for a total of $3,287, about the bill. He explains with equipment and crews spending more than 80 hours on scene of the city's largest fire ever, the bill comes because the fire is considered an extraordinary case.
 
"A standard house fire doesn't take that much effort. But since this was basically, I would say 12 structures in one, under adverse conditions that could have taken out a lot of downtown area Jerome, and we had to throw a lot of resources at it to contain it to the building that it was in. It was definitely out of the ordinary," Krill said.
   
He says he talked to Moore's insurance company and created the itemized list to reflect accurate costs for the city's time, equipment and personnel.

"We billed at what the employee rates were for city employees as what the true cost of their hourly costs were plus the standard bills for these types of equipment, either the Idaho Department of Lands rate schedule, or FEMA rates schedule," Krill said. "The city of Jerome taxpayers put forth a lot of the efforts to extinguish this fire, and we want to try and recover that taxpayer money the best we can."

In addition to Jerome Fire Department expenses, Krill explains other agencies helped and need to recover costs and the public works department was also involved, adding even more to the fire's total bill.

"We did damage to the equipment, there was some damage to the city sidewalk and city street. That light pole that was out there plus the water runoff, the erosion, all cost the city money to repair and replace," Krill said.

For now, Moore isn't sure what will be next. She says they are still working on quotes for demolishing what's left of the building, which is looking to be another roughly $100,000 price tag. The city's bill says it's due by June 21, 2013, something Moore isn't sure she or insurance can do.

"They're wanting paid in 30 days or they're going to penalize me 20 percent which would be almost $20,000 for that too," Moore said.

Krill tells KTVB they've requested payments from people before for what they categorize as "extraordinary" fires. For example, last year, he says they billed for responding to a semi-truck fire on the interstate.
 

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