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AGO 1952 No. 403 - September 12, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

FIRE PROTECTION OF COUNTY LANDS

A county may legally contract with a private fire protection association to give additional protection to county forest lands.

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                                                              September 12, 1952

Honorable James E. Duree
Prosecuting Attorney
Pacific County
Raymond, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 403

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of August 20, 1952, in which you ask our opinion on the following:

            "Is it legal and permissible for Pacific County to enter into an agreement with Twin Harbors Forestry Association of 949 Henry Building, Seattle 1, Washington, to pay the said Forest Association the sum of eight cents per acre for fire protection over and above that normally expected to be provided by said forest association, by buying a truck equipped with a power pump, water tank and hose and operated by a two man patrol?"

            It is our conclusion that it is legal for your county to enter into an agreement with the Twin Harbors Forestry Association to furnish additional fire protection.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Your letter indicates that the county owns timber land in an area of moderate fire hazard containing slash areas.  Since this land is covered with slash in part, the county might be subjected to considerable liability as a result of any fire that might break out there.  Under RCW 76.04.380 (§ 3, chapter 105, Laws of  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] 1917, as last amended by § 9, chapter 58, Laws of 1951; RRS § 5806) any owner of forest land is required to provide fire protection and by the terms of RCW 76.04.370 (§ 4, chapter 105, Laws of 1917 as last amended by § 1, chapter 235, Laws of 1951, RRS § 5807) the liability is particularly great if slash is present upon the land.  The State Division of Forestry provides fire patrols for county lands but if the commissioners should determine that some additional fire protection is necessary, we consider that determination an administrative decision which it is within their power to make.  Among the powers conferred upon county commissioners by RCW 36.32.120 (Code of 1881; § 2673; § 1, chapter 51, Laws of 1947; RRS § 4071) the commissioners have the care of the county property.  In construing that section our supreme court in State ex rel. Becker v. Wiley, 16 Wn. (2d) 340, 133 P. (2d) 507, stated that:

            "It is evident from the subsections of § 4056, supra, and other subsections not set out, that it was the intention of the legislature to confer wide powers on the commissioners, to the end that they might properly carry on the business of the county.  It is evident, also, that, in the furtherance of the county business, there are many things which the commissioners must do, not specifically mentioned in the above section, but which may reasonably be implied therefrom."

            Since the county is required to provide fire protection for its forest land and to be liable for fires which occur thereon it is our opinion that the power is necessarily implied in the county commissioners to make reasonable provision to furnish such fire protection and if the commissioners believe that the protection furnished by the State Division of Forestry is inadequate they may contract with a private fire association to furnish additional protection.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LYLE L. IVERSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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