City Government

Firefighters Seek To Fill The Boot With “Stupid Person” Fees

Boise’s City Council approved a set of “stupid person” fees on behalf of the Fire Department Tuesday night. It must take one to know one.

Here is the price list for “AT FAULT” fees these elected politicos approved.

-Residential false alarm: second $75, three or more, $150 each.
-Commercial false alarm: second $125, three or more, $250 each.
-Arson investigation: $75 per hour
-Fighting illegal fire: $300 per hour
-Dive rescue: $1,000 first three hours, $250 each additional hour.
-Powerline incident: $75 first hour, $300 each additional hour.
-Gas or water pipeline incident: $400 first three hours, $300 each additional hour.
-Major hazmat, such as a meth lab: $2,500 first three hours, $300 each additional hour.
-Minor hazmat, such as a minor fuel spill: $450
-Vehicle fire: $600

EDITOR NOTE–The GUARDIAN has no objection to fees for costly false alarm responses. The editor was even lobbied for the original fee ordinance nearly 40 years ago.

We can see it now. A guy is clinging to a tree branch along the Boise River after flipping his canoe and a good Samaritan shouts,”Don’t worry I called 911.”

“Why did you do that? I have a wife and kids to support. I can’t afford to be rescued! PLEASE call them back and I will wait for the water to get below 6,500 cfs,” screams the drowning man.

While well intended, this is one of those acts on the part of City Council that simply needs some “adult supervision.” The rates are arbitrary and subject to interpretation of some firefighter who decides if the person being rescued or the leaky pipe is due to someone “at fault.”

Collections will be difficult–if not impossible and potentially more costly in legal fees than worthwhile. Someone other than the city will get rich on the collection portion.

If a car catches fire, why charge a guy an additional $600 for his misfortune? Just exactly WHO will be billed $75 an hour for arson investigation? Can a property owner simply dismiss the process saying, “I decided not to have an arson investigation. Thanks anyway.”

The absurdity of this shopping list is limitless. Does Idaho Power have to pay $75 when a tree falls on a wire? Imagine if the stupid person is part of a convention or a CEO thinking about locating his business in Boise–bet he gets off for FREE!

If any of the “AT FAULT” actions are criminal, the prosecutor can simply demand restitution for actual expenses at trial as part of sentencing.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. No more money in the boot from me… and please don’t stand in traffic, it’s dangerous and causes additional driving hazards.

  2. Dave:
    You must not have read the whole article in today’s paper. “Collections will be difficult”

    Which Buddy of the Mayor or Council Member will get the PRIVATE COMPANY contract to collect these fee’s !!

  3. Review 63-1311A that requires publication and a hearing before new fees can be implimented.

    EDITOR NOTE–It was “legal.” They published notices and in fact the meeting was indeed a public hearing Tuesday. Problem is even the resolution is very vague using terms like “certain fees” for various departments including fire, parks, etc. It was merely lumped in as presented. Kudos to the Statesman for the Tuesday story.

  4. sam the sham
    Jul 20, 2011, 6:40 am

    How are they planning on collecting fees from tourists and folks from out of state? Let’s see, some silly 17 year old kid who is visiting from Florida for a few days gets stuck in the river and he gets fined. But he is leaving the state that evening. He came by himself to visit a friend, so mom and dad are not here. Tolo Tech is right…a good friend has a good business idea here.

  5. brian vermillion
    Jul 20, 2011, 7:42 am

    Just the latest tool to increase city revenue to waste at Bieters discretion. All the cities in the valley will follow suit if this survives legal challenge.

  6. IdahoCrystal
    Jul 20, 2011, 9:38 am

    The points that should have been given more thought by the City are very obvious and BG’s done a fine job of pointing them out. Truly, how is a car fire anyone’s fault unless it’s arson in the first place? Shouldn’t the BFD send the bill to the car manufacturer? Would any of the ‘fees’ be covered by an individuals insurance?
    Will the City be billing itself for those same services performed by BFD for another City entity?

  7. Citizens should have the right to refuse – and therefore refuse to pay for – all “emergency” services not specifically requested.

    If the paramedics show up and I’m ambulatory, I reserve the option to refuse their ministrations by simply telling them “thanks, but no thanks.” Any expenses incurred as a result of their decision to show up should be on them.

    And I agree with those who decry the “Fill The Boot” antics of firefighters. Any other citizen disrupting traffic in such an unsafe way would be ticketed.

  8. How does responding to a false alarm at my house, cost less than one at Burger King? Each scenario BPD will send an officer. Another example of how the city advertises a business friendly enviornment but during implementation they fumble and actually punish businesses. Apparently businesses can not vote, so subsidize the voting citizen by punishing the faceless business.

    We are a society of laws and ordinances, failure to abide by laws and ordinances can result in legal and financial implications. This seems like a work around for the standard process of our justice system. I think it is a great idea for violators to be burdened with the cost of their poor decision, I thought that is why we had a justice system where freedom and fines are applied to behavior.

    The department administrator who benefits from the decision to declare an incident at fault, should not be making that decision. How is such a decision appealed, to whom and are they free from the benefit of the decision? Will my taxes be reduced since these departments are already funded,

  9. If my insurance company wishes to pay $75/hour for an arson investigation I have no problem, However, if they want to saddle me with that cost it is baloney!

    Our tax dollars paid for these guys to get the training as arson investigators and now they want more of our money? I get the feeling the new fee schedule is all about featherbedding rather than service to the community.

    I still can’t figure out why the BIG RED TRUCK shows up at virtually every EMT call along with the Paramedic Ambulance. They aren’t going to haul anyone to the hospital in the BIG RED TRUCK so why do they show up in addition to the EMT people? More pumping of service numbers I suppose

  10. They’ll probably hire another person to be in charge of collecting these uncollected fees.

    EDITOR NOTE–Looks like they will farm out the collections to a for profit company.

  11. I would like to propose a few more poor behavior city fees:

    $500,000 for refusing to in a timely fashion release records to the public which should have been plus $100,000 fine per each lame excuse such as janitorial contracts could not be made public for safety/security reasons.

    $1.50 per minute for each idling police vehicle

    $75 per hour per police motorcycle used outside of the city of Boise, plus 50% commission on all citations written.

    $100,000 for improperly bidding/awarding city contracts

    $50,000 per each occurrence of P&Z staff or commission imposing development contingencies outside their authority (JUMP)

    $1,000,000 per occurrence of the city trying to issue bonds without proper voter approval and $2,000,000 for city participation in new “innovative” methods to issue bonds which purposefully attempt to circumvent established law.

    $5,000 for showing up to a public meeting with a good idea such as river safety signs, and an additional $1,000 fine for offering the signs to the city for free, plus disbarment for life from media events if someone from the media actually offers an opinion versus their primary job to echo the brilliance of our elected leaders.

    $15,000 fee for registering a vehicle in Idaho which was previously registered in California.

    $1.00 fee for shooting at a wolf, fee waived if wolf is killed.

  12. Implicit in this whole scheme is the idea that it costs money to go rescue someone or respond to a false alarm. If it wereen’t for these calls, chances are they would be at the station doing nothing or on routine patrol.. and still on the payroll. So other than gas, where is the extra expense?

  13. I’ve always maintained that anyone involved in something idiotic, like floating the river off season, should be fined for putting fire fighters lives at risk while saving theirs. But some of this stuff is going to be difficult to prove. Arson investigation? And if there was no arson, then no bill??

  14. brian vermillion
    Jul 20, 2011, 1:45 pm

    JJ for mayor!!!

  15. I wish more of you all had shown up last night. There were only three (3!!) of us that made comments on this issue. For all the angst towards this issue(rightfully so I must add) I expected a larger turnout. The best part is the $40,000 revenue figure is purely a guess with no math behind it. When I asked the Chief to extrapolate the revenue figure he simply said that it was a working number and he wasnt sure of a final dollar amount. REALLY? then why was this up for vote if you dont have an actual plan in place??

  16. I have a fundamental problem with this scheme..we already pay for the service. I do not like the idea of some bureaucrat deciding what a frivolous call is. A few years ago I put my hand into a pocket only to find my pocket knife had opened and I cut the daylights out of my hand. My wife called 911 and in minutes I had everything but a swat team on my front lawn…What I needed was a tetanus shot and a lot of bandages. The idea of getting a bill from the city would be infuriating. What if you refuse to pay?

    What if the city dilli-dallies in its response. Can a home owner with a fire send a bill to the city for additional damage (no).

  17. Why does the BFD even respond to river problems or “clear the river of debris” ? By state law, water ways are the responsibility of the local sheriff. What is the liability of the BFD when they say it’s OK to float the river? looks like more money for Doan’s drones.

  18. I am all for stoopid people paying for stupid behavior. I am also against indifferent people paying for elected officials wasting money.

    My point! Why does the Boise Fire Department send one or more fire trucks to respond to every Ada County Paramedic call? Is it necessary for one or more $250,000 fire trucks with three or more union firemen responding in addition to a $200,000 paramedic vehicle on every medical call?
    Can 911 dispatch attempt to evaluate the level of response needed before commiting that much equipment?

    Or does it help to justify jobs for lots of firemen ?

    The firemen will be available for fires if they are not attending every other medical event in the valley.

  19. Boisean, it helps justify jobs for firemen. 85% of their calls are medical. If they only went out on fire calls, they’d probably forget how to put the fire out much less drive the truck the calls would be so few and far between.

    Why do you think the fire union wants to get in the paramedic business?

  20. Stupidity should be expensive! Maybe there’d be less of it.

    Perhaps instead of an outside firm doing the collecting/administration, the city could hire some sort of “stupid ombudsman.” (In fact, that title would look GOOD on the business cards, and the big brass desk nameplate.)

    [Please don’t read into my comments that I favor the policy as is currently being crafted, but in principle I like the idea of the users of various city services actually paying for them.]

  21. Eye on Numbers
    Jul 20, 2011, 10:25 pm

    The question I have is just how much more does it cost to rescue/respond to a call/serve the stupid public than it costs to sit around the firehouse?

    Answering calls is the only way these people have to keep their taxpayer paid skills honed and up to date. Practice, practice and more practice is what is needed here. Fire vehicles are not retired due to mileage but from lack of use. Gaskets, seals, and other moving parts depend on use to work when needed. Answering calls keeps everything in the equipment moving and lubricated, batteries charged in vehicles.

    Who came up with this lame-brained fee deal?

  22. The statute reads in such a way that each fee must be presented separately.

  23. While I like the idea of holding “Grossly” negligent (as opposed to the run of the mill daily kind of negligent) people responsible….I have several thoughts:

    1- I understand that the fees will be collected by a “for profit collection agency”. What is their cut? In my experience, these collection agencies tend to take 75% of the take. Does this make it worthwhile?

    2- Most of the “stupid people” don’t have insurance, very little income, and it is doubtful they will even pay. I see “write off’s” in the future.

    3- Where is the oversight and the appeals process? I don’t feel comfortable with a person whose agency will directly benefit from this making the final decision.

    4- Seems to me the court process for restitution and/or fines is more appropriate for this, but then that would add a level of oversight, accountability, and the need to meet a minimum standard of proof that is woefully lacking not only in this ordinance but in city government in general.

    Bike Boy: We have needed a PUBLIC SAFETY Ombudsman for years. Don’t hold your breath.

  24. How can they charge for the Haz-Mat responses? They are part of a State Wide Regional HazMat Team. The funding for the Haz Mat responses comes from Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. They are to respond to requests for HazMat Incidents within their Region which is more than just the city of Boise or Ada County. Are they going to charge the residents of the neighboring counties when they have a “major” HazMat response? The example was a Meth Lab. It seems that when there are stories/pictures in the local media about these Meth Labs, there are several agencies involved in the clean up including Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement, Regional HazMat, Local Fire and EMS.

    Where does this fee end?

  25. Emirates Flyboy
    Jul 21, 2011, 9:39 am

    In response to the several questions as to why BFD units go to EMS calls, that has been discussed here many times. They are “Quick Response Units”, generally located just minutes from every address in the city. There are times when ACEMS is 10 minutes or more away from a call.

    Let’s say your baby isn’t breathing, or you are bleeding to death from an MVA. Wouldn’t you rather have an Engine Company staffed with EMTs at your door in three minutes, rather than waiting 10 minutes for the medics?

  26. Double Taxation

    There’s an arguement for double taxation here- I already pay for this service, why would I be charged (taxed) again?

    If I have paid, $3,000 of the last X years, I should have ‘a credit’ with the BFD for my next fire call, whether it’s stupid or not.

  27. I think it’s a great idea and here is why…

    If BFD is going to charge for a false alarm people and business are going to get their alarms in good working order and the incidents of false alarms will go down. With less false alarms will come the need for less fire department/ costly taxes going to waste!!!

    I propose a city ordinance to retrofit every house/business w/ fire sprinklers and eventually the fire department will permantely code themselves out of a job and save the city $40 million a year. Keep up the hard work boys in blue.

    Then insteed of 17 engines keep one pumper, one truck so when the next cat gets stuck in the tree, oh plus the public information officer to say how these guys put their lives on the line while in the tree to save the cat for channel 7.

  28. Emirates FB, We don’t need both. Pick one, get rid of the other, and get all of the pay back down where it should be. Massively overpaid relative to what they could be doing in the rest of the working world.

  29. Jeff, good idea but it will never happen. The rent seeking fireboys goal in life is to continually reap higher pay and benefits and lower work requirements. I believe, if played out to its natural end, we’ll still pay fireboys, but they’ll stay home and never have to show up!

  30. Don't Hate The Player
    Jul 23, 2011, 9:56 am

    How is it all you people always clamor about individual responsibility, but you can’t back something like this? When it’s determined that floating the river is unsafe, and you do it anyways, why should I have to pay to save you from your foolishness?

    Now, that said, I don’t agree with all the items, and I think this just reeks with abuse potential. But the basic idea is sound.

  31. Emirates, There ya go again, reading from the manual! You need to get a grasp on reality. Many times EMS beats you guys to the call anyway, and the reason you are there is to PAD the call sheets for the next budget cycle!!
    It is one thing to falsely justify an expense, taxpayeres find it insulting when such a lame reason is used by city employees to hang on to their jobs!

  32. Nan emouse, I’m a Boise firefighter and I find your comments false and very insulting. I’m not lazy or money hunger. I work very hard at a job I love and take pride in it. I try my hardest to serve the people of Boise the best I can. Your falsehoods and insults show your lack of what goes on day to day at the street level of the BFD. Even though you think you do, you have no idea.

  33. Eye on Numbers
    Jul 24, 2011, 9:44 pm

    The fire calls I see on TV are brush fires for the most part. The fire guys respond to Paramedic Calls (a redundant cost to taxpayers). Here’s my solution..terminate all the firemen and go to a volunteer FD. Most of the houses and buildings these days simply do not catch on fire. I have never seen a foundation or basement burn to the ground. Smoke and water damage render most structures useless.

    How many structure fires do firemen deal with each year? What is the cost benefit to taxpayers? Plenty of people live in homes with no fire departments to protect them and they have been around for years and years.

    Fire codes may have rendered firemen a luxury we can now call into question.

    EDITOR NOTE– Fire departments are an “insurance policy” for a community and serve a vital purpose. No doubt fire codes and modern building materials have reduced the frequency of fires (sprinklers and smoke detectors are prime reasons). However there are still plenty of old structures and more than enough fires to go around. MOST of the firefighters in the USA are part time or volunteer. How about having volunteer medical responders and river LIFEGUARDS just like ski patrol and much of Australia’s surf lifeguards?

  34. My Two Cents
    Jul 25, 2011, 6:24 am

    Charges have been levied inthe past on people who, for instance, drove a car that sparked and started a fire. This is not a new concept of personal responsibility. However, what is idiocy is leaving such a gray area that people will individually determine what is and is not negligent. So if a bicyclist is hurt but was not wearing a helmet, shall we charge them for the rescue? If a person riding in a car was not wearing a seatbelt, then is the rescue operation his or hers to pay for? I agree with Don’t Hate the Player. The concept is sound but the way it’s been done reeks with potential for abuse.

  35. Okay Matt. Prove it. If medical calls don’t make up 85% of your workload, what percent are they? Does your union still want to get into the paramedic business?

    Also, the fire union’s goal is to maximize wages and benefits and minimize workload. If that’s not true, then why is there bargaining? Last time, what % increase did the fire union ask for, not what they got, but their opening bid? What new benefits did you all get? Actually, what benefits did you give up for the good of the taxpayer? None? Maybe you all don’t love your jobs that much.

    Why did you all go to a 48 hour on, I don’t even know how many off? Why didn’t you stay with the 24 on 48 off? Do you all still do personal work in the fire stations? Have you all started to train on Saturdays and Sundays? If not, why not? Why do you all do your grocery shopping on our dime, in our fire truck, using our fuel? Why don’t you all do your grocery shopping on your days off and bring the food to the station like every other employee in this world?

    Do Boise taxpayers still pay for your uniform socks? What percentage of your medical premiums do you pay?

    Maybe the next time you’re “on duty” you can answer these questions Matt using the taxpayer provided internet access. If you don’t answer, I’ll guess we’ll have to take your being “insulted” with a grain of salt.

  36. I’m still insulted and you are still wrong on many levels.

  37. Sounds like the animosity towards the fireman are about like teachers.

  38. Well Matt, you’ll just have to be insulted. But since you don’t tell me where I’m wrong, then I must be right!

  39. Wow, nan emouse has some pretty deep issues with firefighters. I’m guessing a disgruntled ex-employee.

    I have no problem with the false alarm fees or other “stupid” fees.

    I also have no problem paying taxes for everything you just complained about.

    Firefighters are there as insurance, and need to be ready to leave immediately. Because unless you have the ability to predict the future, we don’t know when they’ll be needed.

  40. Issues? No, those were questions that the insulted Matt could not answer even though he “claims” they were wrong. And not a former employee – a current taxpayer that knows some things that the fire union/department/city would rather keep on the qt.

  41. Debating on the Internet is pointless. But, you are wrong still.

    EDITOR NOTE–Agreed. We will close debate with this post.

  42. If people are knowingly doing things that are risky, like white water rafting, then expecting fire fighters to risk their lives to save others is kind of ludicrous. I mean, you know you are doing something dangerous and stupid when you do it. Don’t expect the emergency personnel to die for you just because you don’t give a rat’s ass whether you die or not. Or, floating the Boise River when you’re not supposed to be. That’s another smart move. Or, floating the river with a baby in your arms. Doesn’t get much dumber than that.

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