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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 121 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


1. A fire district may own and operate an ambulance service.

2. A fireman's association may own and operate an ambulance service.

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                                                                 August 24, 1953

Honorable W. J. Beierlein
State Representative, 30th District
112 East Main Street
Auburn, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 121

Dear Sir:

            In answer to your letter of July 28, 1953, previously acknowledged, we submit the following analysis of the problems there presented.  Your questions were:

            1. May a fire district own and operate an ambulance business?

            2. May a fireman's association own and operate an ambulance service?

            We answer both questions in the affirmative.


            Fire protection districts are political subdivisions of the state with the status of municipal corporations.  RCW 52.08.010.  A municipal corporation has only those powers granted in express words or those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted and those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation.  Christie v. The Port of Olympia, 27 Wn. (2d) 534, 179 P. (2d) 294, and authorities cited.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The specific powers of fire districts are enumerated in RCW 52.08.030, which provides, in part:

            "A district may:

            "(1) Lease,own, maintain, operate,and provide fire engines and all other necessary or proper apparatus, instrumentalities,machinery, and equipment for the prevention and extinguishment of fires andprotection of life and property;" (Emphasis supplied)

            The underscored language clearly indicates that the legislature contemplated the ownership and operation of equipment other than strictly fire protection apparatus.  Few items of machinery are more directly associated with "protection of life" than an ambulance.  It is logical to assume that an ambulance was one of the very things the legislators had in mind in authorizing the operation of "all other necessary or proper apparatus" for the "protection of life."

            We conclude that RCW 52.08.030, if not expressly, by strong implication, authorizes a fire protection district to operate an ambulance service.

            The second question is whether a fireman's association may offer the same service.  The status of this association is not indicated in your letter.  We assume that it is a voluntary unincorporated body consisting of the firemen of the district and not within the purview of any of the chapters of Title 24 RCW, governing particular types of associations.  Such an organization would not be created under authority of any particular law, but merely as an exercise of one of the basic freedoms of our system of government.  The only limitations upon its power to engage in business activities are those statutory limitations pertinent to the particular business sought to be conducted.  The only statute with which we are familiar governing the operation of ambulances is RCW 70.54.060.  That section establishes no particular requirements for the operating agency other than the driver.  Since we find no statutory or constitutional prohibition against the practice, we conclude that a fireman's association may own and operate an ambulance service.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General