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AGLO 1970 No. 108 - August 17, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                 August 17, 1970
Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington 98823
                                                                                                             Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 108
Dear Sir:
            This is written in response to your recent letter in which you request our advice on a question as to whether or not a county is liable to a fire protection district for services rendered by said district outside its boundaries, but within the unincorporated areas of the county when the matter is not covered by contract.
            You have advised that your inquiry was prompted by a letter received by your county commissioners from Grant County Fire Protection District No. 10, dated July 15, 1970, in which was enclosed a copy of Resolution No. 33, adopted on August 6, 1969.  The resolution provides in part as follows:
            "BE IT RESOLVED that the fire department of GRANT COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT NO. 10 shall be permitted to respond with fire fighting equipment for mutual aid response within other fire districts or cities where there is a signed mutual aid agreement, and,
            "That the fire department of GRANT COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT NO. 10 may respond with fire fighting equipment into an unprotected area, and
            "That when a response is made into an unprotected area or to a fire that has been the result of burning without a permit there shall be a charge made, and,
            "That said charge shall be at the rate of $25.00 per hour for the first three hours per piece of equipment responding, and,
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "That an additional charge of $15.00 per hour for the fourth and subsequent hours per piece of equipment responding, and,
            "That a charge shall be made at the rate of $2.50 per hour for each fireman responding, and,
            "That a charge shall be made at the rate of $3.50 per hour for each fireman of officer rank, that of Lieutenant and above, responding, and,
            "That there shall be a charge of actual cost of replacement for any equipment lost or damaged, and,
            "That the above charges shall be made to the County or to an Insurance Company, if provision is made in the fire insurance for such payment, or to the individual burning without a permit, and, . . ."
            You have indicated that the county is concerned not only because of the "one‑sidedness of Resolution No. 33" but also because of the possible fiscal impact the operation of the resolution may have upon the county general fund.
            Prior to the enactment of chapter 88, Laws of 1969, there was no question but that a county was required to reimburse a fire protection district for the reasonable costs incurred by the district in providing fire protection services in the areas contemplated by your question.  RCW 52.36.030 provided:
            "Whenever a fire occurs within the limits of any county fire protection district and is of such proportions that it cannot be adequately extinguished or handled by the fire department of such district, or whenever a fire occurs in any unincorporated territory of a county not included within a county fire protection district, the apparatus, equipment and fire fighting  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] force of any county fire protection district within said county may be used for the purpose of extingushing such fire in such other county fire protection district, or in such unincorporated portion of the country [county]:  Provided, That in either case there shall be paid from the general fund of the county into the fund of the district furnishing such services, the reasonable value of the use and the repairs and depreciation upon said apparatus and equipment, and such other expenses as are reasonably incurred in furnishing such fire fighting services: Provided further, That the equipment of a fire protection district may be used within any city or village which joins the fire protection district upon proper and reasonable payment of the cost of the services rendered by such protection district, to be fixed by agreement between the fire commissioners and the board of trustees or council of such village or city."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            However, the foregoing statute was expressly repealed by § 4, chapter 88, Laws of 1969.  The act, being passed during the regular 1969 session without an emergency clause, became effective June 12, 1969 ‑ a date prior to the adoption of Resolution No. 33.  Therefore, we must presume that the action of the fire protection district in adopting Resolution No. 33 was based upon provisions of the 1969 act, rather than upon RCW 52.36.030.
            Chapter 88, Laws of 1969, was "AN ACT Relating to interlocal cooperation, school districts and fire protection districts; . . ."  In § 1, the legislature expanded the definition of the term "public agency" as used in the original interlocal cooperation act of 19671/ so as to include fire protection districts and school districts.  Section 2 of the act (now codified as RCW 52.36.025) reads as follows:
            "Every fire protection district may permit, under conditions prescribed by the fire commissioners of such district, such designated equipment and the personnel operating  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] the same to go outside of the boundaries of such district, for the purpose of extinguishing or aiding in the extinguishing or control of fires.  Any use made of such equipment or personnel under the authority of this section shall be deemed an exercise of a governmental function of such district."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            While the foregoing statute clearly authorizes the fire district commissioners to prescribe the conditions upon which it will permit its personnel and equipment to be used in fighting fires beyond the boundaries of the district, no provision similar to that formerly found in RCW 52.36.030, regarding reimbursement of reasonable expenses, was included in the statute.
            Reading § 2, chapter 88, Laws of 1969, in the light of the title of the act,2/ and, considering the purpose of the interlocal cooperation act,3/ and the fact that RCW 52.36.030 was repealed by § 4 thereof, we must conclude that from and after the effective date of the 1969 act, the liability of a county to reimburse a fire protection district for services rendered in an unincorporated area of the county, not included within the boundaries of a fire protection district, can only arise as the result of an agreement between the county and fire protection district.

            On the other hand, since the authority vested in the fire protection district to utilize its personnel and equipment outside its boundaries is discretionary, the district need not, in the absence of an agreement, exercise this authority.
            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/Chapter 239, Laws of 1967.
2/The title of an act may properly be referred to as one of the means of ascertaining legislative intent.  Optometric Ass'n v. County of Pierce, 73 Wn.2d 445, 438 P.2d 861 (1968); In Re Kurtzman's Estate, 65 Wn.2d 260, 396 P.2d 786 (1964)
3/RCW 39.34.010 provides as follows:
            "It is the purpose of this chapter to permit local governmental units to make the most efficient use of their powers by enabling them to cooperate with other localities on a basis of mutual advantage and thereby to provide services and facilities in a manner and pursuant to forms of governmental organization that will accord best with geographic, economic, population and other factors influencing the needs and development of local communities."
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