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AGO 1958 No. 181 - April 18, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


The commissioners of a fire protection district are authorized to lease fire fighting equipment for the purpose of carrying out the objects for which they are authorized, subject to any applicable budgetary requirements and subject to power to bind succeeding boards.

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                                                                   April 18, 1958

Honorable John G. McCutcheon
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County Court House
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 181

Attention:          Mr. Keith D. McGoffin
                              Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter of March 20, 1958, asking the opinion of this office on whether or not fire protection districts may lease fire engines and other fire fighting equipment instead of purchasing the same.

            We answer your question in the affirmative.


            Fire protection districts are municipal corporations under the laws of this state (RCW 52.08.010).  Being but creatures of the state, they derive not only their existence but also their powers and duties from the legislature.  Town of Othello v. Harder (1955), 46 Wn. (2d) 747.  They are limited in the exercise of those powers to those granted in express words, or to those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to those powers expressly granted, and also to those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation.  (Christie v. Port of Olympia (1947), 27 Wn. (2d) 534.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            With reference to the powers to lease granted to fire protection districts, the statutes provide:

            RCW 52.08.020

            "A district may carry out the objects of its creation and to that end may . . . lease . . . real and personal property . . ."

            RCW 52.08.030

            "A district may:

            "(1) Lease . .  fire engines and all other necessary or proper apparatus, instrumentalities, machinery, and equipment for the prevention and extinguishment of fires and protection of life and property;"

            We believe that the foregoing supports your conclusion that the fire district commissioners are authorized to lease fire fighting equipment for the purpose of carrying out the objects for which such districts are authorized ‑ the prevention and extinguishment of fires and the protection of life and property.

            However, we feel that your attention should be directed to the fact that due consideration should be given to budgetary requirements as well as possible restrictions on their power to bind succeeding boards in exercising the discretion imposed in the commissioners in their administrative capacity in negotiating such leases.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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