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Jun 3, 2011 10:04 PM by Carolyn Carver

Fire District charges "$700 bill for nothing"

"Unfair," "over-reaching" and "unfounded" are all words one man is using to describe a $700 dollar bill he got from a local fire department.

Tony Parsons shows off the bumps and minor scratches on his bumper to describe how minor his May 4th fender-bender really was.

Near 1-25 and S. Academy three cars ended up pulled over on the shoulder, out of traffic, after the third car hit the second which hit the first.

They called 9-1-1 to get a police report to give to their insurance companies but State Patrol, an ambulance and a Stratmoor Hills Fire Protection District fire engine showed up.

A couple weeks later, Parsons and the other two drivers got a $700 dollar bill from the Stratmoor Hills Fire Protection District for responding to the accident even though none of the drivers asked for or needed their help.

"It's unfair and unjust," says Tony Parsons."I am being faced with a $700 dollar bill and I can't fathom why. They provided no service, it was not requested but for some reason you're allowed to bill me hundreds of dollars."

The reason, fire protection districts get their money from taxpayers through voter-approved mill levies, but that money is only suppose to be used for fighting fires.

So, Colorado statute now says fire districts can charge people for responding to their traffic accidents.

Parsons says the statute needs a second look.

He says the bill was originally sent to his insurance company, but when they wouldn't pay it the fire department sent him a letter for payment.

He called to contest the bill and was told to forward it onto the driver who police found at fault for the accident and cited.

He says the fire department told him if the bill went unpaid they would turn his bill over to a collection agency.

Shocked, he called us for help.

We took his case to the Stratmoor Hills Fire Chief for their side of the story.

He confirmed that all three drivers in that accident would be charged the flat $700 dollar rate.

That's $2,100 dollars just for showing up with the fire truck.

Chief Ian Bruzenak says they must respond to calls or else they will be held liable if there are injuries.

He says they picked the $700 dollar fee from several examples across the country, this being on the low-end.

"We put the vehicles out there, we put ourselves out there constandtly , all that cost money," he says.

He says the bill covers the costs of securing the site, diverting traffic, and in some cases rescue efforts and extraction.

He points out that they don't ever bill their Stratmoor Hills residents who pay the fire tax, they just bill non-residents.

He says they charge about 60 people a year, that comes out to about $42,000 dollars in traffic accident response calls, whether their services are needed or not.

He says the policy was in place before he took over as chief two years ago and he says they do not bill every accident they go out on.

Colorado Statue 32-1-1002,"Fire protection districts - additional powers and duties" says, districts have the ability to: "Fix and from time to time increase or decrease fees and charges as follows, and the board may pledge such revenue for the payment of any indebtedness of the district: (I) For ambulance or emergency medical services and extrication, rescue, or safety services provided in furtherance of ambulance or emergency medical services. "Extrication, rescue, or safety services" includes but is not limited to any: A) Services provided prior to the arrival of an ambulance; (B) Rescue or extrication of trapped or injured parties at the scene of a motor vehicle accident; and (C) Lane safety or blocking provided by district equipment.

Parsons says, if you're going to get in a wreck try not to do it in Stratmoor Hills.

We wanted to dig deeper on this one for you so we looked into policies in other fire districts.

Security Fire District's chief says they'll only bill insurance companies if they perform extraordinary medical care or extrications, and if the insurance companies won't pay it, they'll throw it away and not go after the drivers for the money.

Fountain and Tri-lakes chiefs both tell us although they can bill, they choose not to.

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