The Joliet Fire Department on Jan. 1 will begin charging fees for services provided at fires, car accidents and hazardous material incidents.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with Fire Recovery USA, which will collect the money that is expected to total between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.
Insurance companies will be billed for the services, and Joliet residents will not be required to pay any amounts not covered by insurance, city officials said. There is an exception for incidents caused by reckless behavior.
Out-of-towners, however, will be billed for any amounts not covered by insurance.
The fees range from $594 for a Level One response to a car accident, which includes hazardous materials assessment and scene stabilization, to more than $6,700 for a top-level response to a hazardous material incident. Fires will be billed at $455 an hour per engine on the scene and $568 an hour per truck on the scene.
"It's very expensive to a run a fire service," Fire Chief Greg Blaskey told the City Council Public Safety Committee, which reviewed the Fire Recovery USA contract before it was taken to the council for approval on Tuesday.
Blaskey said the billing method is modeled after the system that the fire department has used for years for ambulance calls. Joliet residents also do not pay beyond what insurance covers for an ambulance call.
"If the insurance company paid $200 and the bill was $300, there would be no balance billing for Joliet residents," Blaskey said. Out-of-towners, however, would be billed for the remainder of the amount.
Out-of-towners who work in Joliet would be billed beyond what insurance pays, which is the same system now used for ambulance billing, Blaskey said.
There is a provision allowing Joliet residents to be billed beyond what insurance pays for incidents "caused by any intentional, reckless, or negligent act or omission."
Blaskey said Fire Recovery USA is providing the same service to 1,250 fire departments across the United States, including neighboring Troy Fire Protection District and East Joliet Fire Protection District.
The council voted unanimously for the contract after some discussion to clarify that Joliet residents would not be billed for charges not paid by insurance.
"It's about bringing more revenue into the city," said Councilwoman Jan Quillman, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee.
Fire Recovery USA will keep 20% of what it is able to collect as its payment for services.