In Arizona Rural Metro Fire (not to be confused with those knuckleheads in Washington State) recently responded to a residential fire. After all was said and done the owner received a bill of a little under $20,000 for serviced rendered. Part of this cost was $150 per firefighter per hour and $1500 per apparatus. 

Now I'm not the smartest guy but I never knew any firefighter made that much an hour. But the surprising thing is they were only assisting and responded 20 minutes after the initial alarm AND the house burned down. Also the home was outside the county fire district. 

Three things need to be discussed. How to deal with the 10-15% of America that has no fire protection in rural areas and how much does fighting a fire really cost. Do we charge more if we pull hose off an engine or raise a ladder. Can the company that stood by or provided RIT or Fast teams charge. 

And the most important thing is How the hell can I get one of these $150 an hour jobs. Heck I'd settle for $75 an hour. 

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I have read about this incident when it first came to prominence. My question is, how did Rural Metro end up there in the first place, since this fire was outside of the county fire district?

The first thing is that your post and related questions are not together. You are asking some stand alone questions yet, integrating them with the incident that spawned a bill in the first place. Essentially if you hope for responses to the individual questions, it would help to keep them seperate from the incident.


How to deal with the 10-15% of America that has no fire protection in rural areas


The reality is this aspect of the question has been answered numerous times already. It really does come down to the community and what they are willing to pay for. Along with that is to have depts that have training and standards in place to be able to mitigate those emergencies. Now the rural areas make up for a lot of area and yet, many have some form of fire protection in place through volunteer depts. Now, true, many depts have a tough time finding people to respond, people that live AND work in the area, people that are willing to commit to the training requirements and so forth, all have an impact. In some areas, like Obion County, TN and similar areas, there is a subscription service in place for a "pay to spray" from an outside dept because the local area chooses not to fund their own dept. In this case, RM is a private fire service.


Essentially it boils down to knowing what your services actually entail for your area. If you don't like what is offered, look to change things or look to live elsewhere. 


how much does fighting a fire really cost.


Depends upon the services, staffing, equipment, training and so forth. There is no standard answer because it is so variable. In most municipalities, the fire service is tax based and one pays according to the service level, ISO, demographics, population, etc, etc.


Do we charge more if we pull hose off an engine or raise a ladder.


Sorry, but this is a ridiculous question and you know better Craig.


Can the company that stood by or provided RIT or Fast teams charge


Depends upon the situation. If there is a MABAS agreement or automatic aid agreement in place, most likely the answer is no. However, in those situations where MA was requested for further outside agencies not part of a MA agreement, then there could be charges billed. Typically such billing for services would go between finances between the political jurisdictions as opposed to a dept billing another directly.


How the hell can I get one of these $150 an hour jobs


They don't exist in the fire service. What you need to realize is that Rural Metro is a private fire company and not part of a taxing authority, county, municipality etc. Unlike a dept that relies on tax dollars etc, they rely upon the subscriptions for services and what they can bill for. There would be costs for equipment, station, staffing, training, maintanence and so forth. Without having a tax base or contracts in place, they make up for those costs elsewhere and that would be billing.


Now, take out the incident at play here, and take out the billed amount, but billing can and does happen even with taxed based services. Many depts bill for extrication, water rescues, HAZMAT incidents, EMS and so forth. This is done to help offset costs for services, so it isn't like billing doesn't happen.




As for the particular incident itself, such a bill seems outrageous if some details reported are true. While this could have been a subscription service area, it sounds more like the home was outside RM's area. If it was outside of RM area and there were already depts on scene before they got there, then IMO, RM is SOL. If RM was called in by another dept for mutual aid, then such a bill should be sent to that dept that called for their help. If this was solely RM responding, then it is easier to understand a bill, but given the amount and the fact they were late, them amount should be questioned.

I know you're probably kidding about the $150/hr job. I laughed also. Right after I cried...

I'm thinking maybe this billing situation is similar to what hospitals do. They charge exorbitant prices for services and stuff like syringes and bedpans, but the insurance companies only pay a small percentage of what's billed. The rest gets "discounted." Insured patients pay a small "co-pay." I've always wondered why hospitals play that game.

Just thought maybe Rural Metro might be playing that same game. Seems like a wasted effort on the part of the paper pushers.

The real issue here, despite your ridiculous attempt at sensationalism, is why didn't the home owner know who provided his fire protection?  His area does have subscription fire service and evidently this home owner did not pay the subscription fee and thus had no fire protection.  The end result is he got billed for services, I do believe $20K is excessive, but that isn't the point really is it?  The home owner FAILED to do his homework on who provided his emergency services. 

Frankly, the majority of your questions/statements have nothing at all to do with the original story.

Rural/Metro ended up responding due to the misconception that RMFD is the "county fire department". First and foremost RMFD is NOT a sanctioned Maricopa County entity. RM provides services in certain service areas. When Lou Weitzman founded RM, he said RMFD will go when called and to wherever called. RM has mutual aid agreements with the surrounding local fire departments. Mutual aid was requested due to RMs distance, but these municipal fire departments charge RMFD for mutual aid. Rural Metro has to bill the property owner to recoup costs spent for the incident. While these costs appear high, they are the standard rate. In Arizona, counties are not responsible for fire if a homeowner chooses to live in the middle of no-where then no fire department is obligated to respond....but when a fire department does respond why would you expect free service when people either pay for it in taxes or subscription rates...why should you get a free ride?

and for the record RM firefighters don't make a 150 dollars an hour...........that's what the company bills for. If a captain is on OT that day (with any amount of seniority) then he is making about $40.00 an hour.....add 33% for benefits and workmans comp costs.....and RMFD isn't really walking away with too terribly much. Be smart some math.

I think that you all need to have a long hard look at the provision of fire services to all of the country.

Why is there no universal coverage? Surely some work could be done to provide fire coverage in those areas that have none, e.g. a self help scheme, use of satellite stations etc...

Have a look at how the fire services are arranged in Australia - we all help one another out ( reference the  recent NSW fires, all of the other states pitched in and helped..). In my state (Vic) have a fire service levy that is applied to the council rates ( land tax in your parlance) and administered by the state to provide funding for all fire services ( Volunteer and Paid staff). This is similar in most states.

We may not be perfect, but at least there are no surprises. ( We have just changed from a fire levy that was charged on insurance policies, and if you had no insurance, you got the bill, now we collect from all and hopefully this is equitable for all).

As I said - have a good hard look and get your politicians to do some work to fix this situation.



In my state (Vic) have a fire service levy that is applied to the council rates ( land tax in your parlance) and administered by the state to provide funding for all fire services ( Volunteer and Paid staff). This is similar in most states.


The same thing is essentially set up in the majority of places in the states here too, there just happens to be areas with so limited people to have an adequate tax base or there is too much greed at a local/county level that the don't want such a tax. This then leads to looking at another dept to get services and for some that means either a private dept, like RM, or have subscription services with the next closer dept. Either way costs for services are incurred and it comes down to knowing what your services are.

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