Life after a vehicle accident can be difficult – especially when you get a bill in the mail the following week you weren’t expecting. But if you are involved in a car accident outside of your town and the local fire department response – you may be billed for their emergency services.

Joe Steffen, a Round Lake resident, said he spent years contesting a bill after he was involved in a three car accident in Grayslake back in 2014.

“I immediately called 911 to bring the fire services and EMTs out because I was concerned about the people that were in that second car,” Steffen said.

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Charging non-residents for emergency fire services is technically legal in Illinois. An NBC 5 Responds survey showed that Chicago-area fire chiefs departments and protection districts do in fact charge fees to non-residents when responding to vehicle accidents and car fires in their jurisdictions.

Forty-four departments responded with information on their fees. While these charges can differ between municipalities, non-residents could be billed up to $250 per vehicle per hour and $70 per firefighter per hour. Some departments may also charge a flat fee for extrication services or responding to a vehicle fire.

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“At the end of the day, if there’s an incident response, we have to have some cost recovery mechanism and that’s really what those fees are for,” said Wheaton Fire Chief Bill Schultz.

Schultz also serves as president of the DuPage County Fire Chiefs Association, representing fire chiefs in the western suburbs. Schultz said many public sector entities, including police departments and municipal administrative offices, also have fee structures in place.

“The residents are paying tax dollars. A non-resident is not,” Schultz said. “With any tier type of charges, it’s about trying to equalize as best as possible. It’s never going to be one hundred percent.”

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Local fire departments to possibly charge for emergency services AP Photo/Charlie Riedel