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AGO 1976 No. 2 - January 14, 1976
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOL ‑- FIRE PROTECTION ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- CONTRACTS ‑- FIRE PROTECTION SERVICES FOR CITY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

RCW 52.36.020, as amended by § 1, chapter 88, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., does not require a school district with facilities located within a city or town to compensate a fire protection district for service provided such facilities even though the city or town has entered into a contract with the fire protection district for the provision of fire protection services.

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                                                                 January 14, 1976

Honorable John E. Cunningham
State Senator, 33rd District
P.O. Box 89307
Seattle, Washington 98188

                                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 1976 No. 2

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent request for our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does RCW 52.36.020, as amended by § 1, chapter 88, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., require a school district with facilities located within a city or town to compensate a fire protection district for services provided such facilities where the city or town has entered into a contract with the fire protection district for the provision of fire protection services?

            We answer this question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 52.36.020, as amended by § 1, chapter 88, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., provides that:

            "Wherever a fire protection district has been organized which includes within its area or is adjacent to, buildings and  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] equipment, except those leased to a nontax exempt person or organization, owned by the legislative or administrative authority of a state agency or institution or a municipal corporation, the agency or institution or a municipal corporation, the agency or institution or municipal corporation involved shall contract with such district for fire protection services necessary for the protection and safety of personnel and property pursuant to the provisions of chapter 39.34 RCW, as now or hereafter amended:  Provided, That nothing in this section shall be construed to require that any state agency, institution, or municipal corporation contract for services which are performed by the staff and equipment of such state agency, institution, or municipal corporation:  Provided further, That nothing in this section shall apply to state agencies or institutions or municipal corporations which are receiving fire protection services by contract from another municipality, city, town or other entities:  And provided further,That school districts shall receive fire protection services from the fire protection districts in which they are located without the necessity of executing a contract for such fire protection services:  Provided further, That prior to September 1, 1974 the superintendent of public instruction, the insurance commissioner, the director of program planning and fiscal management, and the executive director of the Washington fire commissioners association, or their designees, shall develop criteria to be used by the insurance commissioner in establishing uniform rates governing payments to fire districts by school districts for fire protection services.  On or before September 1, 1974, the insurance commissioner shall establish such rates to be payable by school districts on or before January 1st of each year commencing January 1, 1975, payable July 1, 1975:  And provided further, That beginning with the 1975-77 biennium and in each biennium thereafter the superintendent of public instruction shall present in his budget submittal to the governor an amount sufficient  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] to reimburse affected school districts for the moneys necessary to pay the costs of the uniform rates established by the insurance commissioner."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The language of this statute speaks of school districts receiving fire protection services from fire protection districts "in which" the school districts are located.1/   That language is determinative of a fire protection district's claim, for as we shall see below, school district facilities located within a city or town cannot be located "within" a fire protection district.

            A fire protection district is a body corporate created pursuant to Title 52 RCW.  It is created for the particular purposes set forth in RCW 52.04.020 as follows:

            "Fire protection districts for the elimination of fire hazards and for the protection of life and property in territories outside of cities and towns are hereby authorized to be established as in this act provided."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In addition to the language of this section which limits the territorial authority of fire protection districts to those areas outside cities and towns, there are express provisions exempting cities and towns from inclusion within fire protection districts.  RCW 52.22.030 provides as follows:

            "Effective January 1, 1960, every city or town, or portion thereof, which is situated within the boundaries of a fire protection district shall become automatically removed from such fire protection district, and no fire protection district shall thereafter include any city or town, or portion thereof, within its boundaries."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Likewise, RCW 52.22.020 provides that:

           "The incorporation of any previously unincorporated land lying within a fire protection district shall operate to automatically withdraw such lands from the fire protection district."

            Thus, the legislative intent of Title 52 RCW is clear.  The territorial limits of a fire protection district extend only to those areas locatedoutside of a city or town.  School district facilities located geographically within a city or town cannot, therefore, be "within" a fire protection district within the meaning of RCW 52.36.020.  Accordingly, school district facilities located within a city or town are not subject to the provisions of that statute.

            Moreover, it is clear that the location of school district facilities does not change upon the execution of a contract between the fire protection district and the city or town.2/   They are still not "within" a fire protection district.  Nor does RCW 52.36.020,supra, authorize a city or town to pass the costs of fire protection services incurred under a contract between it and the fire protection district on to the school district.  Therefore, it is our opinion that RCW 52.36.020 does not apply to school district facilities located within a city or town even if a contract exists between the city or town and a fire protection district for fire protection services.

            This conclusion is further supported by language contained in § 149(8), chapter 269, Laws of 1975, 1st Ex. Sess.  That section of the 1975-77 omnibus state appropriations act allocated some $960,000 to the state superintendent of  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] public instruction to pay "fire protection districts at a rate of $1 per year for each student attending a school located in an unincorporated area within a fire protection district as mandated by the provisions of RCW 52.36.020 . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)  Thus, the funds so appropriated cover only facilities located within a fire protection district and, accordingly, do not cover facilities instead located within cities or towns.

            For all of the foregoing reasons, we answer your question in the negative.  RCW 52.36.020, as amended, does not require a school district with facilities located in a city or town to pay for the services of a fire protection district even where such district provides fire protection services to those facilities under a contract entered into with that city or town.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


RICHARD A. FINNIGAN
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Although the opening clause of RCW 52.36.020 speaks of buildings, etc., within or adjacent to a fire protection district, that clause of the statute is, by reason of the above underscored third proviso currently inapplicable to the relationship between a fire protection district and a school district.  Compare, RCW 52.36.020 as it read prior to its amendment by § 1, chapter 88, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., and was interpreted in AGO 1973 No. 19 [[to Ronald L. Hendry, Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County on August 8, 1973]], copy enclosed.

2/See, RCW 52.08.030(3) which authorizes any fire protection district:

            "To enter into contract with any incorporated city or town whereby such city or town shall furnish fire prevention and fire extinguishment service to the districts and the inhabitants thereof under the provisions of this act upon such terms as the board of directors of the district shall determine. . . ."

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