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Fears for lives as fire callout fees hit home

MOTORISTS and householders in Dublin now face bills for thousands of euro for emergency callouts.

Dublin City Council has introduced new fees for fire brigade callouts, with €610 being charged in the first hour for vehicle and chimney fires.

However, all hours after the first 60 minutes will be levied per tender, meaning the bills could be in the thousands of euro.

It comes after revelations today that a driver was hit with a bill of €3,500 from Laois County Council for calling out the fire brigade to the M7 motorway. The figure was subsequently dropped to just over €3,000 and the man's insurance paid €1,000 - but he was still left with a bill of over €2,000.

Dublin City Council passed a motion last month to introduce a raft of new charges, including fees for fire brigade callouts

Families living in the capital now face a first-hour fee of €500 for domestic fires, €610 for vehicle fires and €610 for chimney fires.

There's also a first-hour charge of €610 for traffic incidents. Previously, the service was provided free to private households in Dublin city and county.

However, a fee was levied on commercial premises, starting at €610 and going up depending on the length of time involved in putting out the blaze.

Householders in many counties are paying more than €350 for callout services, though the fees vary widely. North Tipperary Council charges homes a €366 fee for domestic callouts, while in south Tipperary the fee is €150.

Dublin Fire Brigade Siptu convenor Gerry Harris said the charges on citizens in the capital could cost lives.







Endanger

He said someone who could not afford the fee might try to put out the fire themselves, putting their lives at risk.

It could also endanger the lives of firefighters as the blaze would be more developed when they got to the scene, he added.

Mr Harris suggested a preferable option would be putting a 1.5pc fire levy on household insurance. It was revealed today that father-of-two Michal Szulc, who lives in Portlaoise, Co Laois, received an initial bill of €3,500 from Laois County Council.

He was returning from his night-shift job in Dublin on July 11 last when a fan in his car caught fire on the motorway, near Portlaoise, he told a newspaper.

Mr Szulc rang the emergency services to inform them and two crews were dispatched.

While many councils charge fees, millions of euro goes uncollected. In 2008, councils levied charges of more than €7m for fire services -- but only €3.8m was collected.

comurphy@herald.ie


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