Mayor Peter Kelly had harsh words on Thursday for insurance companies suing the municipality and its fire services over the handling of last spring’s wildfires in Spryfield.
Kelly said lawsuits filed by the insurance companies who paid out for those who lost homes in the fires are trying to enhance the insurers’ bottom lines on the backs of HRM taxpayers.
“For the insurers to come at the firefighters and HRM, again, it’s a matter of the bottom line, not a matter of anything else … That’s what it’s all about,” Kelly said.
There were 18 lawsuits, according to the CBC, filed against HRM and Halifax regional fire services late Wednesday afternoon in relation to the wildfire that destroyed eight homes, damaged 10 others and forced hundreds of people into rescue shelters.
Taken together, the lawsuits would reportedly total about $10 million.
The lawsuits allege firefighters were negligent in fighting the wildfires. The Department of Natural Resources announced in October the fire was caused by an unextinguished campfire.
Kelly said the municipality will “vigorously” defend the firefighters, who he applauded for their work in battling the blaze in late April and early May.
“Our firefighters use their professional judgment,” Kelly said. “They do their overall assessments of a risk, and in that particular event they could not have foreseen the rapid change of conditions, including the drop of humidity as well as the temperature rise and the wind that increased substantially.”
According to the mayor, the insurance companies, not the residents, are leading the charge in the lawsuits.
“As I understand, (the residents) have already been reimbursed for their claims. The insurers are now trying to reimburse themselves for the claims that they paid out to (the residents),” said Kelly.