Charges for 999 fire calls go unpaid

Cormac Murphy

AN astonishing seven-in-eight invoices issued by Dublin Fire Brigade for domestic 999 calls have not been paid.

New figures from the service show a mere one-in-eight - or 12.5pc - of bills have been paid since January this year.

The charges imposed by Dublin City Council came into effect on January 16.

Prior to that date, the cost of call-outs for domestic fires was shouldered by the council.

With the local authority's budgets getting ever more stretched, it introduced a fee of €500 for the first hour attending domestic fires, chimney fires and false alarms.

The fee rises to €610 for road crashes. For every subsequent hour, a further €450 to €485 is charged.

Since the levies were brought in, the fire brigade has issued 184 invoices for domestic incidents but only 23 have been paid. As a result, income of €12,350 has been earned, leaving €89,510 out of a total bill of €101,860 outstanding.

For commercial incidents, 215 invoices have been issued but only 32 (14pc) paid. Out of a potential income of €142,870, only €18,910 has been received.

The local authority has been charging for commercial fires for over a decade.

Executive manager of the fire brigade, Gerry Geraghty, emphasised that the issue of payment is a secondary consideration for the service and it is "much more important" that members of the public call the emergency number at the first sign of a blaze.

Charges are only levied in situations where a person can be reimbursed through their insurance, he added.

Prior to the introduction of domestic charges, SIPTU organiser Owen Reidy said elderly people would fear the levy even if there was a small house fire.

Mr Reidy had said: "We think it's regressive. We think it'll change human behaviour which will put firefighters at risk."