Bill Would Outlaw Indiana Fire Fees

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana lawmaker is crafting new legislation after a New Castle family was billed nearly $28,000 following a fire at their home. 6News' Joanna Massee contacted U.S. Rep. Dan Burton...


INDIANAPOLIS --

An Indiana lawmaker is crafting new legislation after a New Castle family was billed nearly $28,000 following a fire at their home.

6News' Joanna Massee

contacted U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th District, after Brian and Darline Fairchild received an itemized bill from the Cadiz/Harrison Volunteer Fire Department for charges related to a 2009 fire.

The bill included charges for the water firefighters drank at the scene and refilling firefighters' oxygen tanks, along with the billing company's 22 percent fee.

"I thought it was terrible that somebody that just lost their home would be stuck with a $28,000 bill to clean up the mess and for the services that were provided," Burton said.

Robert Blackford with Brownsburg-based Emergency Services Billing Corp. said a federal environmental law -- the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA -- allowed the company to charge unlimited fees for house fires and car crashes.

Burton's proposed bill, the Innocent Fire Victims Protection Act, would amend CERCLA to protect house-fire and car-crash victims if the government cannot prove that the owner of the home or car engaged in illegal activity.

"I thought that we ought to have some kind of method to make sure that people who have suffered this kind of tragedy don't have to suffer it in addition with a huge expense," Burton said.

Insurance Institute of Indiana Vice President Marty Wood said he hopes the bill passes.

"If this were to become law, I think it will be just about everything we could ask for," he said.

Emergency Services Billing Corp. declined to comment on the proposed bill on Monday.

Burton said he hopes to introduce the bill in a week or so after circulating it around the House to get original cosponsors.

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