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€241 for being drunk: French firefighters bill for call outs

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€241 for being drunk: French firefighters bill for call outs
Photo: AFP
10:35 CEST+02:00
Firefighters in Calvados, in northern France's Normandy, have created a stir after announcing that residents will be charged for non-emergency call outs.
The new tariffs, obtained by the Ouest France newspaper, show that from April 1st residents of the Calvados département will have to fork out to cover a whole range of fees for non-emergency call outs. 
 
In future firefighters, who also act as emergency paramedics in France, will charge as much as €463 to rescue someone from a broken down elevator, or the same amount for any false alarms.
 
If you're drunk and need help, expect a €241 fee, the same cost of if you've had a bad fall and need help. 
 
Calling for a document search will set residents back €96.
 
Thankfully, proper emergency calls, such as when someone's life is in danger or when a building is actually on fire, will remain free of charge. 
 
The motivation for the charges appears to be financial, with the fire services like other public services suffering from budget cuts.
 
France national auditors, the Cour des Comptes, actually recommended that firefighters introduce a system of fees for non-emergency call outs several years ago.
 
But as expected, not everyone is happy with the move.
 
Firefighting unions said that such fees were "scandalous", and local Socialist councillor Eric Vève slammed the plan as "unacceptable".
 
"These fees will obviously deter some people from calling firefighters," he told Le Figaro. 
 
"I think they've made this move to save money, but financial savings shouldn't be made on the back of people's safety." 
 
The president of the local fire service Jean-Léonce Dupont took to his blog to say it was "perfectly legal" to demand a fee for interventions that do not directly relate to the brigade's duties.
 
He added that Calvados wasn't the only area in France charging for call outs, with fees already in place in areas such as Moselle, Yvelines, and Essonne. 
 
With the fees set for introduction on Friday, residents of Calvados will surely think twice about making an emergency call next time their pet cat gets stuck up a tree. 
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