Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1951 No. 414 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


Township governments do not have authority to employ fire departments of other municipalities paying a fixed sum for each call of such fire department.

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                                                                  January 5, 1951

Honorable Boone Hardin
Prosecuting Attorney
Whatcom County
Bellingham, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 414

Dear Sir:

            We are in receipt of your letter of December 22, 1950, wherein you ask the following questions:

            1.         Is it permissible for a township government to pay a fire department of another municipality a fixed sum for each call of said fire department?

            2.         Would it be permissible for the Point Roberts Township to enter into an agreement with the Fire Department of Ladner, British Columbia, Canada, to take care of all possible fires in the township on the basis of a fixed sum for each call?

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            Township governments do not have authority to contract for the employment of fire departments of municipalities, paying a fixed sum for each call of the fire department.


            The establishment of township governments is provided for by Article XI, § 4 of the Washington State Constitution which in substance provides that the affairs of township governments shall be managed and transacted pursuant  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] to statutes enacted by the state legislature.  Sections 11370 and 11378, Rem. Rev. Stat. enumerate the powers of townships.  Such legislation neither expresses nor implies authority for a township government to contract for the employment of a fire department of a municipality, and further, § 11371, Rem. Rev. Stat. limits township government authority with the following provision:

            "No town shall possess or exercise any corporate powers except such as are enumerated in this title or are especially given by law or necessary to the exercise of the powers so enumerated or granted."

            Not only is the authority of township governments expressly limited by the Washington State Constitution and statutes enacted pursuant thereto, but it is a rule of law that township governments have no power to make contracts for the payment of money where they are not authorized to raise money to discharge such contracts by a tax on the inhabitants, 52 Am.Jur., Towns and Townships, § 39.  An examination of the statutes of this state fails to reveal any authority for township governments to levy a tax for the purpose of employing fire departments.

            It is, therefore, the opinion of this office that the township governments in question do not have authority to contract for the employment of fire departments of municipalities.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General