Fire departments around the state are seeking compensation from insurance companies to cover services provided at motor vehicle accidents. Fees range from $200 per call and up.

Some have been billing for services such as extrication and scene control for years. Other departments are just beginning to charge or considering it. Most are not billing to recoup costs.

It is not a common practice in Maine, Lewiston Fire Chief Michel Lajoie said, but it’s growing, especially with the economy the way it is and budget constraints. It has been used in other states, including Florida and California, for a while, he said.

Fire chiefs said they don’t bill to make money, rather they seek to cover expenses incurred at accidents, including use of equipment.

Auburn, Turner, Bangor, Livermore and Freeport departments bill for specific services connected to automobile accidents.

Livermore adopted a policy Monday to seek reimbursement for services, including scene, traffic and safety control, fire suppression, extrication from vehicles and hazard mitigation at traffic accidents.

Lajoie said the Lewiston City Council asked him a couple of weeks ago about ways to generate new revenues.

He said he is considering charging for services firefighters provide at vehicle “mishaps.”

Leo Simard, vice president of claims at Patrons Oxford Insurance Co. in Auburn, said he is not aware of a law in the state that allows or disallows municipalities to bill insurance companies directly. His company reviews each claim submitted on a case-by-case basis. In general, the claims would be considered if an insured client were at fault and the municipality received property damage, Simard said.

It’s his company’s opinion, he said, that traffic control or fire departments being called out as a precaution would be a public safety issue and not a liability issue. Reimbursement for extrication costs would be considered if a client were at fault and the person who was extricated was injured, he said.

Farmington, Norway and Rumford don’t bill for such services.

Farmington Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell said his department doesn’t charge for services provided at accidents.

“But I see it coming,” Bell said. “I don’t doubt it at all. I guess it’s up to the selectpersons to decide if they want to initiate it. It’s not a bad idea. I’m not for or against it; I’m willing to listen.”

According to Livermore Fire Chief Randy Berry, about half his department’s calls are related to accidents and some of these accidents involve people who were driving through town.

“We looked over our budgets the last couple years,” Berry said, “and more and more, we are spending our resources on vehicle accidents.”

These services are stretching the rural town’s budget, he said. His department would use some of the fees to maintain equipment and buy needed extrication tools, which otherwise would come out of taxpayers’ pockets, Berry said.

The Auburn Fire Department uses Medcomm billing service to send bills for scene control, which includes setting up traffic blocks, and bills for pads used to soak up fluids leaking from vehicles, said Assistant Chief Cam Martin.

Bangor Fire Chief Jeffrey Cammack said his department bills $250 per call for extrication services. For the last five years, bills have been sent to insurance companies if the department gets the information from police at the scene. If not, the bills are sent to those involved in the accident, instructing them to send the bills to their insurance company, Cammack said.

Cammack said his department was probably one of the first in the state to bill for these services. He estimated that there were 24 Maine towns, or fewer, that do seek reimbursement.

“We’ve had very good response from insurance companies to the point there is a couple weeks turnaround,” he said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.