Fire Departments Charge for Service, Asking Accident(and Fire) Victims to Pay Up
Edited on Thu Feb-04-10 10:37 AM by RamboLiberal
Source: ABC News
It came in the mail less than a month after Darline Fairchild watched her family's home go up in flames -- a bill for the nearly $28,000 it cost the fire department to extinguish the blaze.
"I felt my body turn cold and I just broke out into a sweat," Fairchild told ABCNews.com. "It was awful. I said, 'It's got to be a mistake.'"
But it wasn't a mistake. The Fairchilds, of New Castle, Ind., were just one of a growing number of fire and accident victims across the country who are being billed for fire department services once funded solely through taxpayer money.
Already banned in several states, the practice of charging to respond to house fires and car accidents -- dubbed a "crash tax" or an "accident tax" -- has horrified victims and earned the ire of insurance lobbyists who say their member companies are being targeted to make up for budget shortfalls.
That's right. After you move in, you get a knock on the door -- but it's not from the Welcome Wagon. It's from the fire department, asking if you want to join. If you don't pay up, they really will sit there and watch your house burn down.
One wonders what happens if the flames start to spread to a member's house next door.
39. They would extinguish the blaze in your neighbor's house
Before Benjamin Franklin established the Philadelphia Fire Department, fire protection was the responsibility of fire societies. You paid into the society and fought fires of its members.
I think you can understand the problem here. If your house was in the First Street Fire Society, you had to go out and help your Society fight fires in its members' homes. Your neighbor is in the Green Street Fire Society, and he goes out with them. Tonight you responded to a fire in one of your members' homes. While you're gone, your wife got cold so she went downstairs, shoveled some cinders into a bucket and carried it to the bedroom. In the process she got some cinders on the rug and set the house afire. The Green Street Fire Society would go to your neighbor's house to make sure it didn't burn down, but they wouldn't do anything to help you. Why should they? You're not in their fire society!
I expected something like this to happen...fire protection is expensive and I figured that's one of the things that would be sacrificed in this modern era.
60. If the flames spread to the house next door, you'll get sued for any damages
You are considered responsible for providing fire protection; failure to pay for fire service caused a forseeable hazard to the house next door. So you get smacked with their fire bill, plus the costs for repair or replacement of the house and contents.
Rome was made from wood, the buildings were too close and they heated and cooked with open fire.
Tacitus claims Nero returned to Rome and paid for the relief effort from his own pocketbook, set up the palace as a homeless shelter and brought food in. After the fire, he developed sort of a building code requiring houses be made from brick and spaced far enough apart that flames couldn't jump between them. Okay, the fucker also built a big palace and a 100-foot statue of himself so he wasn't exactly pure of intention.
If you want to see what fiddling while New Orleans burns looks like...
43. Yeah right. Then, Nero blamed the fires (in the poor sections of Rome) on the Christians
who were then even more persecuted. I like your linking Bush to New Orleans, but though he was second or third worst president ever, few would claim that Bush caused the weather -or even the Corps of Engineers lax dike maintenance.
44. Who are you rating as the two worse presidents than Bush?
Reagan is one of them, I know that. Whatcha think for the other one, Hoover or Harding? (Compared to some of the crap presidents we've had, Nixon falls fairly far down on the list of bad presidents. He's pretty high on the list of corrupt ones--falling behind Bush 2, Bush 1, Reagan, Harding, Grant and Fillmore.
too pedantic but there is evidence to suggest that for all his sins Nero did all he could to stop the fires. Nero also devised a new urban development plan that would make Rome less vulnerable to fire and personally pulled dead bodies out of the carnage for burial. It is true that he also used the wreckage to build an obscene palace and once the going got tough (as the rumor spread he started the fire) he placed the blame on Christians.
sorry to go off on a tangent but fact is fact and all
Great sources for historical information about cities, because they show street level detail that no other maps from the period show . . . but the reason they were made was to indicate which homes/businesses had purchased fire insurance.
Ostensibly, they were made so the fire insurance companies could assess risk when determining the rates for insuring a home or business - but there are plenty of stories about fire departments not responding to fires at homes that were marked as 'uninsured' on the maps.
58. And they soon discovered what a terrible idea that was
when and insured home was in very close proximity to an uninsured home that was on fire...trying to protect one while letting the other burn often turned out to be a very bad strategy indeed (not to mention allowing the poor to die while the wealthy were rescued).
12. And volunteer fire departments are hiring billing companies and levying fees as well according to
When will Americans wake up to the fact that somebody has to pay for things? The GOP has been on the kick of 'cutting taxes' as the solution to all problems for 3 decades now. People all think they 'pay too much' in taxes today, ignoring the tax rates that people paid 30 years ago.
I guess those who see no value in having car or homeowners' insurance will be really surprised when billed. Or are the 'billing companies' making money by only billing those with insurance?
But the cost of the equipment and facilities should be paid for with taxes. And certainly we all should be able to agree that socialized fire departments are superior to the old privatized version. The cost of fighting a fire should not be forced on the victim.
The ones that are part of counties and cities do have some revenue. But the little indendent districts out in suburbia and in areas have to charge for their time and and non-reusable assetts expended in fire fighting or emergency response. That is basically their only reliable income. Prop 12 and then Prop 218 pretty much did them in. (Thank you very much militant anti-taxers) If you are looking to buy a house in an unincorporated area, first thing to ask, is who responds to fires and what are the insurance rates, given that insurance companies redline those areas covered by less that total pro fire companies. The answer you get might be a deal breaker.
sending a bill if, after the service is dispatched, they get there and it's a non-necessary call (ie no fire or false alarm because the homeowner couldn't get to the alarm panel in time or the "cat stuck in the tree").
But if you call the fire dept and they come and do what they are supposed to do (put out fires) then that is why you pay taxes.
25. IMO that should be called a fine or civil penalty not a 'bill'
Non-emergency use of emergency services IMO should result in something that is clearly termed a FINE or in extreme cases a civil suit and judgment against the idiot in question. I know it is just semantics but I don't think we should call it a 'bill'.
19. My dad's in a volunteer fire dept that does this. It never went away in rural areas.
$120 a year gets you fire insurance that results in unlimited responses without charge. If you aren't a member, they're still respond to the fire and put it out, but they'll send you a bill afterward for the cost of the firefight. I'm not sure where the department in the article came up with $28,000 though...the bills that my dads department sends out are rarely more than a few thousand for a big fire, and as little as $100 for a very small one. They bill only for the actual costs incurred. $28k is insane.
23. In the OP article the FD in story is using a Billing Service
But Emergency Services Billing Corporation, Zarich charged, has been grossly inflating charges on behalf of their clients. In the last 18 months, the institute's member companies have reporting seeing their average fire service charges go from $300 to $400 to between $2,000 and $5,000, Zarich said.
Indiana's state fire marshal lists appropriate service charges as up to $250 for a vehicle response and up to $150 for each hour of assistance, but Zarich said ESBC's estimates are almost always higher. ESBC's Web site doesn't list specific rates, but advertises it's own rate policy based on charges for every 15 minutes a fire department's equipment and personnel are on scene, with the fees taking an emergency responder's rank into consideration.
ESBC spokesman Rob Blackford confirmed to ABCNews.com that his company ignores the state recommendation, saying the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, allows fire departments to charge what they see fit in exchange for mitigating the environmental impact of an accident or fire.
"I don't care what the fire marshal says at all," Blackford said. "The insurance companies owe this."
20. Maybe it should just be included in property taxes like garbage pick-up is in some areas
My father was a Fire Captain in an urban department and a Civil Service employee. Ever since those years, all the areas I've lived have had volunteer Fire Depts & Ambulance squads. Much of their free time is spent fund raising, calling, mailing letters etc. Some combine into regional squads to save money & extend coverage. Others just basically go broke.
If all homeowners & businesses in a given community gave $30 per month it would be a big help.
I would say absolutely. Fire and police should both be funded by taxes (property, state sales, state income, small portion of federal income, etc.). These are basic life safety services that benefit the entire community. They are exactly the types of things societies are built around.
32. holy fuck -- even the Pentagon would blush at this bill padding:
"The Fairchilds' bill for $27,989.12 was itemized with hourly rates for the use of fire trucks, hoses and the firefighters' time, even a case of drinking water for firefighters who got thirsty. The total for five hours of fire personnel on the scene totaled more than $8,500. The use of the fire trucks cost more than $12,300."
They are the ones putting their lives on the line and not deciding who pays what. The fault should be aimed at the municipalities (counsels/mayor/etc.) who are making these decisions for their taxpayers.
38. Funny when libertarian ideals clash with reality.
Edited on Fri Feb-05-10 09:09 AM by Javaman
They don't want to pay taxes and they want government out of their lives, yet, if you don't pay taxes and you have government out of your lives, this is what you get; contract fire depts that charge for services.
once again, the libertarian ideals fail miserably. paying taxes for fire and police protection is like paying on insurance. You pay into a pool that decreases the over all expense to the citizens. Not everyones house will catch fire at the same time, so it defers the overall cost.
but again, I know up just pissing up a tree when trying to reason with libertarians when I use this bit of reality.
You can't brag that you live in a community with low property taxes and then complain when the community doesn't provide proper services. Fire apparatus and the equipment required to deal with fire emergencies cost lots of money. For example the price of a 2009 E-One Cyclone 100' rear mount ladder truck is $660,000.00. That is without the tools and equipment. The average cost of a Pierce commercial pumper is $160,000.00. The cost of an NFPA complaint Scott Air-Pac is $6,315.00 each. This stuff isn't given away and then there's the cost of turn-out gear, radios and training. When taxes are cut the money has to come from somewhere. It's not like these people go into this kind of work to get rich.
This is what happens when people stop supporting their communities economically. For every dollar you spend at the big box stores (yes including Costco) and from online merchants like Amazon, you take another dollar out of a local or potential local merchants hands.
When you spend your dollar at the local merchant some of that money goes to paying the employees of the merchant who in turn can spend their money locally and any profit that the merchant makes can stay local. I'm tired of people sending their dollars to corporations that take their profits and send them back to their corporate head quarters.
I will never again:
Buy from an online store Buy from a big box store Buy from anyone who only has a 1-800 number Buy from anyone who doesn't keep their profits in my community
I will Support my local merchant Keep my tax dollars here so I can build a better community get over the fact that I can save 13 cents by buying from a big box store
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