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AGLO 1974 No. 4 - January 09, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington


A fire protection district which is providing ambulance services is not authorized to charge a fee for those services.

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                                                                  January 9, 1974

Honorable C. W. "Red" Beck
State Representative, 23rd District
Route 5, Box 15
Port Orchard, Washington 98366                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 4

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have asked for our opinion as to whether a fire protection district which is providing ambulance services is authorized to charge a fee for those services.

            We believe that in the absence of specific enabling legislation, this question must be answered in the negative.


            The basic authority of a fire protection district to own and operate an ambulance service is to be found in so much of RCW 52.08.030 as provides that:

            "Any fire protection district organized under this act shall have authority:

            "(1) To lease, own, maintain, operate and provide fire engines and all other necessary or proper apparatus, facilities, machinery and equipment for the prevention and extinguishment of fires, and protection of life and property;"  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Accord, AGO 53-55 No. 121 [[to W. J. Beierlein, State Representative on August 24, 1953]]and AGO 65-66 No. 41 [[to Robert C. Bailey, State Senator on September 27, 1965]], copies enclosed.  This authority, however, does not either expressly or by necessary implication vest such a district with the further power to charge a fee for providing this service.  Nor have we found any other presently existing statute which can be said to grant this authority in accordance with the well-established proposition that public agencies may only charge such fees as are clearly authorized by law ‑ either by express provision or necessary implication.  See,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] AGO 63-64 No. 19 [[to Lincoln E. Shropshire, Prosecuting Attorney, Yakima County on April 22, 1963]], copy enclosed.

            If the legislature desires to alter this situation through the enactment of specific legislation authorizing a fire protection district to charge for its ambulance service it unquestionably may do so.  However, until and unless this is done we believe that your question must be answered in the negative.

            We trust the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

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