Lancaster City Fire Dept. looking to bill insurers for specific service costs

LANCASTER, Pa. -- The cost of fighting fires can be pricey; one area fire department is seeking an ordinance change to help recoup the costs and bring in money for the city.
The Lancaster City Fire Department wants to bill your insurance provider if they fight flames at your house. That billing includes how much it costs to fight the fire, hourly fees, and all the equipment used while doing so.
What does this mean for people who may have an emergency and need fire assistance?
According to the Lancaster City Fire Chief, the city plans to take in between $40,000-$50,000 in revenue from billing insurance providers. A spokesman with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department says that amount of billing should not raise your insurance premiums.
The cost of fighting fires adds up, according to fire Chief, Tim Gregg. The department's proposing an itemized list of costs which they would use to bill insurance providers. The chief says, currently, about 97% of the department's budget is salary and benefits.
"The only thing we have to do is fill out the fire report, put an itemized list of material and the equipment we've used and the nature of the call, and the company can remotely access our reports and they determine what we should bill for," said Chief Gregg.
That company would be The Pennsylvania Fire Recovery Service. Department's billing for services is not a new practice in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
"It's not a common thing, but it's not unusual either," said Ronald Ruman, Press Secretary for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
There are nearly 50 items and services on the proposed Lancaster City Fire Department billing list. The cost of using this ladder truck? $400 per hour. Hose? $25 dollars for a fifty foot strand. Extrication tools? $100 each. $50 for every fire extinguisher use, and $5 every time a firefighter uses one of these handheld flashlights
"Our citizens are already paying some of these insurance fees so we're kinda letting some of the revenue on the table there that we should be trying to collect," said Chief Gregg.
$40,000-$50,000 in revenue for the city. This leads to the question, how will these costs affect your insurance rates? Ruman says they shouldn't raise premiums for now.
"The amount of money we're seeing being billed by fire companies to insurers across the state is a very small amount. For instance, in Lancaster $50,000 a year in the city is frankly a minuscule amount of money. In the course of a year, we would not expect that to impact premiums," said Ruman.
With a number of fire departments across the state utilizing this type of billing, what extent would raise premiums?
"It's a hypothetical question. It's tough to answer, but it would have to be a significant change in the amount of money insurers are paying out," answered Ruman.
The Lancaster City Council will discuss the proposed ordinance change at the upcoming meeting on Tuesday.
If you would like to read the full ordinance, click here.