Lancaster firefighters may begin billing insurance companies for fires, crashes

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – Acting Fire Chief Tim Gregg calls a proposed ordinance “another tool in the toolbox” as fire departments across the country battle for funding.

“This is an expansion where now we will be able to bill for actual building fires and for vehicle incidents,” he said.

Gregg said they would hire a third-party collection agency to go after the money from insurance agencies. As it stands, the fire department bills for hazmat and rescue calls, but Gregg said they rarely collect.

The money owed would be determined by an itemized list.

Gregg estimated the department could get an additional $50,000 a year. He believes that money is owed to fire companies anyway because coverage for emergency response is a standard part of most home insurance policies.

“We don’t intend on billing residents or building owners directly for building fires,” he added.

False alarms would be the only time anyone is responsible for money out-of-pocket.

The practice isn’t new as there are other fire companies in Lancaster County who do the same thing.

However, some are skeptical that insurance premiums wouldn’t increase with the ordinance.

Duane Hagelgans is the fire commissioner of the Blue Rock Fire Department. He said his volunteer department believes the effort and cost of hiring the collection agency aren’t worth the extra cash.

“Insurance companies are not in the business to give away money,” Hagelgans said. “Let’s be realistic; most of them are for profit. Somebody has to pay for it.”

“Every little bit that we can generate above and beyond is a big help,” Gregg said.

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