Police blocked off 40th Avenue on Jan. 10, 2015 while firefighters battled a meth lab blaze. The fire has led to a lawsuit against Langley Township. (Langley Advance Times files)

Bill for meth lab fire leads to lawsuit against Langley Township

Local farmers say they shouldn't have to pay costs of putting out fire in rental house

  • Apr. 17, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Two former Langley farmers are suing the Township over a bill for firefighting in a case that involves a meth lab and vanishing tenants.

In late March, lawyers for the Township asked a judge in Chilliwack Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit for $33,376 plus damages that was launched in 2018 by Amarjit and Gurminder Gill.

The case goes back to an early morning fire on Jan. 10, 2015, in a rented house in the 22900 block of 40th Avenue on what was then the couple’s Langley farm property,.

When Township firefighters arrived at 4 a.m., they discovered what appeared to be a methamphetamine lab in the house.

Police brought in their clandestine lab specialists, and a hazardous goods removal company was contracted to deal with the toxic remnants once the fire was out. Toluene and “white powder” was discovered there, according to the Township.

READ MORE: Langley house fire uncovers meth lab

The Gills’ house was at the back of the property. In documents filed with the court, the Gills said they had rented out the house “only days before” the fire and do not know the names of the tenants.

Police said that the tenants had been away when the fire broke out; they never returned and were never identified or arrested.

However, the Township then charged the Gills the cost of fighting the fire, sending them the bill for more than $33,000 on Jan. 23.

Under Township bylaws, the Township can charge property owners if fire crews are sent out “in connection with the commission of an indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.”

When the Gills objected to the bill, the Township added the cost to their property taxes. The Gills paid up.

In 2018, they sued the Township, saying that they had no knowledge of illegal activity in their rental house.

They also argued that there was no formula or calculation given to them to show how the Township arrived at the figure of more than $33,000 for the bill for the fire.

The wanted their money back, with interest.

In March, the Township asked a judge to throw out the case.

The Township’s lawyers are arguing that the Gills failed to file their lawsuit in time – they should have filed a claim within six months of being sent the invoice for $33,000.

On April 14, lawyers for the Gills fired back, filing documents saying that the lawsuit couldn’t have started until the money was paid, via property taxes, which happened in May 2017. The lawsuit was filed in 2018, and the Gills say there is a two-year limitation period, not six months.

A judge will rule on the Township’s application later this month.

Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

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