New York Town Bills Man $1,400 for Water Use After Fire

December 5, 2012

Michael Pietro doesn’t mind so much that he got billed for the water firefighters used to battle the blaze that destroyed his upstate New York home. What really irks him is the amount: $1,400.

“First of all, I’m not shocked at getting a bill for the water,” Pietro said Friday, still shaken from the fire that leveled his house and destroyed all his belongings in the rural Rensselaer County town of Brunswick. “What I’m shocked at is the markup. I know it does not cost the village of Poestenkill $20 per 1,000 gallons.”

Volunteer firefighters battling Monday’s blaze had to use water hauled in by tanker trucks to combat the flames, and the nearest hydrant was located down the road in the neighboring town of Poestenkill.

Two days after the fire, town officials in Poestenkill sent Pietro a water bill for $1,400. Supervisor Dom Jacangelo has said his town has to pass along the expense because Poestenkill buys its water from Brunswick and the nearby city of Troy.

Under Poestenkill law, use of a hydrant costs $20 per 1,000 gallons used. The law also says it costs $40 to use a hydrant for “emergency response” but it’s not clear if that’s a flat fee or means $40 per 1,000 gallons used. Jacangelo said firefighters used 73,000 gallons of water knocking down the blaze at the house Pietro shared with his wife in the town of about 4,500 people.

Jacangelo and other town officials didn’t return messages seeking comment Friday morning.

“In all honesty and fairness, at the bottom of the bill, it said if there were any problems, they said I could contact the town and they can be flexible,” Pietro said.

Pietro, who moved to Brunswick just three years, told The Associated Press he had nothing but respect and gratitude for the way fire crews attacked the blaze and the way the community has rallied around him.

“Make this perfectly clear: This is no reflection of the fire department of the village of Poestenkill or the volunteer fire people who came and responded and took time out of their lives to help me,” he said. “The people are so wonderful and thoughtful that it blows my mind.”

Eagle Mills Fire Chief Tom Martin told local media that homeowners shouldn’t pay for water used to douse a fire. The department will host a benefit to help the Pietros recover.

Pietro is living with his daughter temporarily and said he wants to rebuild. He’ll ask for a temporary permit to put a mobile home on the lot while he rebuilds.

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