Fire department to charge for car crash rescues

Ashland Fire & Rescue plans to begin charging out-of-town car crash victims when they have to be extricated from their vehicles.

The new rescue fees will come on top of fees that already are charged for medical treatment and ambulance trips to the hospital.

The Ashland City Council agreed on Tuesday to allow the rescue fees because non-residents don't pay property taxes that support the fire department.

However, people who live in Ashland can be charged for car crash rescues if they are intoxicated while driving or engage in negligent acts.

The fire department can charge non-residents for emergency responses to hazardous materials spills. Both residents and non-residents can be charged for spill clean-up costs, according to a new ordinance approved by the City Council.

Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns said that typically, several firefighter/paramedics respond to major car crashes. The bill for their combined time spent on a typical extrication would be about $200, while equipment use costs would be about $200 or $300, he estimated.

A car crash victim's car insurance company would be billed.

The City Council has yet to set fees officially.

The fire department already charges $899 for an ambulance trip to the hospital. If firefighter/paramedics respond to a medical call but end up not taking the person to a hospital, the charge is $250.

The new rescue and hazardous material spill response fees will bring in an estimated $15,000 to $18,000 annually.

Karns said equipment to extricate people from cars is becoming more expensive. Cars are being made with added safety features and metal alloys that make them harder to cut apart.

An extrication tool known as the Jaws of Life costs about $25,000, Karns said.

The fees will help protect the city of Ashland's budget in the event of a major hazardous materials spill, he said.

Major spills, especially on busy roads and highways, force Ashland Fire & Rescue to call back off-duty personnel — resulting in overtime costs, Karns said.

"There aren't going to be that many instances where this comes into play," he said. "It just protects us, mainly from hazardous materials spills. Those can be expensive."

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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