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AGO 1954 No. 372 - December 28, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Port districts do not have express or implied power to create fire districts.

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                                                               December 28, 1954

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, WashingtoAGO 53-55 No. 372n

Attention:  Mr. A. E. Hankins, Chief Examiner

Dear Sir:

            Your letter of December 9, 1954, requested our opinion concerning the Port of Seattle's power to establish a fire district within its boundaries and other questions dependent upon an affirmative answer thereto.

            We are of the opinion that a port district cannot establish a fire district.


            The Port of Seattle, a port district, owns and operates the Seattle‑Tacoma Airport and has purchased fire fighting apparatus therefor.  Whether the port district has authority to establish a fire district within its boundaries depends upon the powers granted.  A port district, being a municipal corporation, has no power not expressly granted or reasonably implied.  State ex rel. Elwood v. Lovering, 78 Wash. 624 (1914).

            RCW 53.08.010 et seq., specify the powers of a port district generally.  These sections provide no express power to establish a fire district and the general objects and purposes of a port district do not create the power by implication.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Chapter 14.08 RCW provides a port district with broad corporate powers with regard to the establishment and operation of an airport.  Although a port district is authorized to make rules and regulations and procure equipment relating to fire protection, we do not believe the power to establish a fire district is created thereby.  Furthermore, there appears to be no necessity for the establishment of a fire district since the port district apparently is authorized to operate fire protection equipment under its corporate powers.  SeeKing County v. Port of Seattle, 37 Wn. (2d) 338, 223 P. (2d) 834 (1950).

            A fire district may be established only by the method prescribed by the legislature.  The proper procedure is set forth in chapter 52.04 RCW.  RCW 52.04.030 states in part, as follows:

            "To form a district a petition * * * signed by not less than fifteen percent of the registered electors resident in the district, * * * shall be filed with the auditor * * *"

            A municipal corporation cannot comply with this procedure because of its very nature as an artificial being.  Therefore, it is our opinion that a port district, operating an airport, has no power express or implied to establish a fire district within its boundaries.

Yours very truly,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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