Pompiers told to bill for call-outs

FIREFIGHTERS are angry over a vote by councillors in Calvados to make them bill for some services.

The aim is to “dissuade people from systematically calling the pompiers when the situation doesn’t make it necessary.”

New rules agreed by the local fire service council, which consists of councillors from other local authorities, will require them to charge for certain ‘recurrent’ situations which are ‘not urgent’.

These include: €463 for a fire alert, if there is no actual fire; €241 if they are called to help a person who has fallen at home but does not require being taken to hospital or €241 for a call to assist someone who is drunk.

Union spokesman Sébastien Delavoux said firefighters had previously only charged in very limited circumstances, such as for removing wasps’ nests.

“It particularly bothers us that they say we should charge €241 when someone has fallen and can’t get up. We are attached to the idea of a public service that does not discriminate by financial means,” he said.“People today can’t necessarily count on help from neighbours.”

He added the problem with charging for fire call-outs where there is no fire, is that it can be due to detectors’ batteries running down, which causes them to sound their alarm. “If the neighbours hear it they might call us because they think there’s a fire. But if there’s a charge, they may think twice about it. It would have been better to tell the government approved detectors need to make a different, recognisable, noise when it’s due to the batteries.”

As for call-outs to people who are seriously drunk, he said the council’s argument is that it should not be the pompiers’ job, but for the gendarmerie. However Mr Delavoux said that was not true where someone is unconscious, cannot get up or are injured.

The union is applying to the prefecture to strike out the decision, he said. “There’s a risk it could spread to other councils because of the money difficulties councils have – because they are receiving less from the state – they are always looking for savings.”

. Calling the pompiers on 18 is advised for life-threatening emergencies, especially heart attacks, not just for fires.

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