For the past few days, the NBC10 Investigators have exposed the tactics of some so-called fire chasers.
NBC10 Investigative Reporter Harry Hairston takes us to a West Philadelphia fire, and a woman who kicked the chasers off her porch.
Geraldine Fitzgerald’s neighbor’s house was on fire, and fire chasers showed up to make a profit.
“They have no place here,” Fitzgerald said.
The chasers didn’t just want business from the house on fire. They went to the neighbors, like Fitzgerald as well.
“I said if I had a gun, I would aim it at the door. I said, because you have no business doing this to people in the midst of their struggles and, you know, hard times,” Fitzgerald told the NBC10 Investigators.
Firefighter Union President Andrew Thomas said his members see firsthand what fire chasers can do.
“No one should have to sign a contract under duress,” Thomas said.
Thomas told NBC10 the fire chasers sometimes get in firefighters’ way and can be aggressive towards fire victims.
Now, lawmakers are stepping in. Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced legislation that would force restoration companies to be licensed and get on an official list. Insurance adjusters are already required to be licensed.
“The city can know that they’re licensed and that they’re legal and that they know what they’re doing,” Blackwell said.
Mike O’Leary owns a restoration company called Protect Restoration. He told the NBC10 Investigators that some companies are aggressive, and some have gotten in the way of the fire department – but neither of those issues happen often.
O’Leary said the business is misunderstood.
“There’s a service that needs to be provided," he said. "We’re there to provide it.”