Fire Department Charging Usage Fees

Zane Reynolds

This question is similar to the situation that occurred in South Fulton, TN.

In the situation of this particular city fire department, they are providing fire and EMS protection services to county residents without a prepaid protection fee. They are however interested in billing the homeowners after the conclusion of the call. This would include life support services as well as fire protection.

If dealing with city residents, do you bill them for calls after the situation has been resolved?

Do you currently have a situation in your city where you are billing county residents after the situation has been resolved? How do you handle this situation?

Is this fee compulsory or optional? After all, many times you cannot find the resident and get them to sign a paper or agree to the fee before extinguishing the fire? How is this fee made compulsory?

Please, any information you may have on situations like this is appreciated.


Caitlyn Mitchell

Here are two examples of users fees for Fire and EMS services

Rural/Metro Corporation provides private sector fire protection in parts of Arizona. In some communities they serve, where the local government does not offer fire protection services and/or there is no tax base to support fire protection, Rural/Metro contracts directly with individual homeowners and business owners who pay annual subcription fees for fire protection
(Rural/Metro Corporation)

3% of fire department in the state of Iowa accessed fees for fire fighting, 35% for water rescue, and 65% charged fees for hazardous materials spill response. Many departments also charge for EMS services as well (Callahan and Oster 1999). The Fire Service Institute of Iowa State University Extension suggests the following schedule of fees (Callahan and Oster 1999):
• Grass fires $100 - $300
• Car fires $150 - $500
• Commercial fires $300 - $1,000
• Residential fires $300 - $500
• Hazardous material fires $100 per truck + $30/hour/firefighter.

The full report, compiled with the help of FEMA and the United States Fire Administration can be found at

Thomas Wieczorek

A recent report by the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) found that there are 47,100 fire protection areas in the United States of which 1,200 are subscription based for fire protection. It is interesting that the genesis of today's fire service occurred at the turn of the 20th century, spurred on by the insurance companies, which affixed plaques or other markings that showed the occupant had paid insurance and could receive fire service!

Fees for service are becoming much more common although they have been prohibited by state legislation in parts of the country. A manager should check with his/her city attorney to ensure that such fees are not precluded before beginning the process.

Auto and homeowners policies have a number of riders that will pay or reimburse when fire and emergency services are called. One of the more common is a fee when "Jaws of Life" or extrication equipment is used; most insurance companies pay for this charge. Less known is that many auto policies provide coverage for medical costs related to any highway or auto incident. As an example, my son was hit by a car while riding his bike several years ago. While I waited for my regular health insurance to pay (and because my doctor did not participate in the health insurance plan I held), I mentioned the paperwork that was required to my auto agent. He noted I had coverage, even though I was not involved in the accident, which paid for all of the ambulance and hospital/doctor costs. They then sought reimbursement from my health care provider and saved me the navigation challenge.

Many homeowner policies will pay for the cost of providing fire service but some have now limited to only paying for mutual aid fire service required to handle the call. There is no clear guidance and a manager should check with local agents to see what is the standard coverage.

For EMS, many privately owned services charge a yearly "subscription fee" which relieves the participant of any fees not covered by insurance. This is particularly popular with senior citizens or those who frequently use ambulance services.

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Nov 2 2010
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Nov 4 2010

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