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FL Fire Department to charge for wreck calls

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Travis Jenkins, Landmark News Service

FORT LAWN – The Fort Lawn Fire Department will follow the lead of the Richburg and Lewis Departments by charging for responses to car wrecks.

In recent months, the Richburg and Lewis Fire departments have taken advantage of a county ordinance that allows a charge to be assessed to a person’s insurance company if they are involved in a wreck that the department responds to.

There are some stipulations, including that no one that lives in a department’s coverage area is to be charged. Considerations can also be made regarding a person’s financial situation.

At the March 4 meeting of Chester County Council, Fort Lawn Fire Chief Alan Culp requested that his department be allowed to start charging the fee.

As was the case when the other two departments came before the council, Councilman John Wayne Holcombe balked at the idea.

“I think you know I’m against this thing,” Holcombe said. “I’ve gotten a lot of complaints on it.”
Holcombe said he doesn’t like the notion that people pay taxes, and are then charged for a service that taxes are supposed to pay for. He said he’d heard about a minor “bump up” that occurred recently.

“Both drivers were charged $200. They had the same insurance company. The department didn’t do anything. They just got the insurance info and charged the folks,” Holcombe said.

Holcombe didn’t specify which department had done that. He has previously opposed the practice because it drives up car insurance rates. Plus, he said, there is no cap on how much can be charged. He predicted that the practice would “wash out” eventually.

Culp said he had some reservations about instituting the charges, but said it was necessary.

“Our budget has been cut almost in half over the past few years,” Culp said. “Our fire board is in the process of purchasing a lot for a new main station in the future. With charging and fundraising, we hope to make it.”
Holcombe told Culp he and other volunteers do a good job and he is not against them, just the practice of charging people for accident responses.

Culp’s request passed by a 5-1 margin, with Holcombe casting the dissenting vote.