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Manteca gets first payment for fire services at accidents
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Managing editor of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
Manteca has received the first insurance company check to cover the cost of sending fire equipment to accidents involving non-residents.

The $792 check was from one insurance company and covered two separate accidents.

Non-Manteca residents who cause traffic accidents – as well as anyone who crashes while driving under the influence – are having their insurance companies billed for the cost of the Manteca Fire Department’s response.

It is all a part of the effort to balance Manteca’s municipal budget that has been hit hard by the drop in property and sales tax as well as continued state raids of local revenue.

Only those motorists who are found to be at fault will be charged. No one living within the 95336 or 95337 ZIP codes are subject to the charge even if they cause the accident. That means rural residents – who don’t pay city property taxes but may shop in Manteca and pay sales tax - will be exempted as well.

There were over 400 vehicle accidents in Manteca in 2008 of which more than half involved non-residents due to Highway 120 and Highway 99 passing through Manteca. There were also 38 accidents involving drivers who were under the influence.

The council also retained Fire Recovery USA to handle the billing and collection of fees. The move, based on 2008 accidents, will bring $47,000 annually into the general fund.

“The concept of seeking cost recovery from non-residents involved in vehicle accidents is based primarily on the fact that Manteca residents, through their property taxes, already pay for police and fire services, whereas non-residents do not,” noted Fire Chief Kirk Waters in a memo to the City Council in September. “Thus, the residents are receiving services for which they’ve already paid.”

There are five possible levels of charges for out-of-town motorists involved in accidents or for those driving under the influence. They are:

•$435 for scene safety and investigation such as the cost of traffic control, patient contact, and hazard control. It also includes mitigation of automotive fluids.

•$495 for everything in the initial level plus more if the department has to clean up and dispose of any gasoline or automotive fluids spilled as the result of the accident.

•$605 for all the previous plus the added condition of the vehicle catching on fire to cover the cost of materials used to extinguish it.

•$1,800 for the first two levels plus extrication should anyone be trapped in a vehicle and needs to be removed. It will not apply if the person is simply unconscious and firefighters are able to open the door. The up charge only comes into play if equipment is deployed.

•$2,100 includes other work plus clearing a landing space if needed for a medical helicopter.

A number of other cities already have such charges in place for out-of-town motorists involved in accidents.

If the department simply responds and their services aren’t needed there is no charge.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail