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Supervisors to Review Ordinance on Cost Recovery For Emergency Response to Auto Collisions

March 29, 2010

On Tuesday, April 6, the Placer County Board of Supervisors will review a proposed ordinance to recover costs from vehicle insurance policies of non-resident drivers who cause motor vehicle accidents that require a response by the Placer County Fire Department (PCF).

The department provides services to county residents in particular areas, and receives a portion of the property taxes generated in those areas to cover the costs of providing the service.

Currently there is no mechanism for PCF to recover costs from residents who cause accidents but live outside the PCF protection area. Because of the national economic downturn, property tax revenues that fund PCF continue to decline.

If a fee ordinance is implemented, Placer County Fire could recover an estimated $120,000 each year through automobile insurance policies, which are required by law, and usually include emergency response coverage of approximately $500.

Responding to traffic accidents and other emergencies caused by residents who live outside the PCF service area adds to the wear and tear on department equipment, expends supplies and commits personnel so that they are not available to help in other emergencies.

The direct protection area of PCF includes three major highways – Interstate 80 and State Highways 49 and 65 - plus several less-traveled county highways and other high-traffic areas.

As a result, Placer County Fire responds to a large number of motor vehicle accidents each year where at-fault drivers don’t live in communities directly served by the agency and therefore don’t help pay for the service. In 2009, Placer County Fire responded to 529 motor vehicle accidents that required at least a fire engine company response. Of those, approximately 370 responses were in support of residents from outside the Placer County Fire direct protection area.

“Local fire districts have faced significant financial challenges, and it isn't fair to the taxpayers within the fire districts to cover all costs of motor vehicle accident response, particularly when the at-fault person lives in another area,” said Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes, who formerly served on an elected fire district board. “Recovering costs through the at-fault person’s insurance just makes good sense.”

Within Placer County, similar cost-recovery programs are place in the cities of Roseville and Colfax, and the fire protection districts in South Placer, Loomis, Penryn, Newcastle, Foresthill and Placer Hills. The city of Rocklin and the North Tahoe Fire Protection District are also considering such ordinances.

Placer County Fire provides direct service to the communities of Dry Creek, rural Lincoln, Sheridan, Thermalands, Fowler, Ophir, North Auburn, Christian Valley, Bowman, Magra, Dutch Flat and Emigrant Gap. Residents of these areas would be exempt from the proposed ordinance.

The Board of Supervisors will also consider approving an exemption from the competitive bidding process based on findings consistent with the county’s adopted procurement policy, and could authorize the Procurement office to sign a one-year contact with Fire Recovery USA, an agency that provides cost recovery services to other fire jurisdictions in Placer County.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on this cost recovery issue on Tuesday, April 6, at 10 a.m. at the Placer County Administrative Center, 175 Fulweiler Avenue. Complete information will be available on the county website, on or before April 2, as part of the Board of Supervisor’s agenda packet. To view the document, click here.