The fee of €675 for a fire brigade call-out in Westmeath is at the higher end of the scale, according to a recent survey of fire authorities across the country.
In Westmeath the charge for an ordinary call-out is a flat rate of €675 for fire incidents, and €500 for chimney fires.
However, each fire brigade is free to set its own charges, resulting a lack of consistency across the country.
According to the survey, the highest fee for a house fire call-out is €750, charged by Mayo Fire Brigade. Several brigades charge over €500, including Westmeath and Roscommon. Elsewhere, charges range from €125 in Longford to €460 in Galway, while call-outs to fires in Cork, Waterford, Sligo, Monaghan, and Kerry are free of charge.
There are also varying payment structures, with some counties charging per hour, per minute, per fire engine, or per firefighter.
The current Westmeath charges were agreed by Westmeath County Council and Athlone Town Council in July 2012, with the flat rate being introduced to make it easier for the council to reclaim the cost of the call-out from insurance companies. Prior to this, the fire brigade charged €475 for a daytime call-out, €950 for a night-time, weekend, or public holiday call, and €150 for a chimney fire.
In general, home insurance policies cover fire brigade charges; however home owners can also appeal for a reduction in charges for fire brigade attendance in exceptional cases or in the case of financial hardship.
The national survey of fire brigade call-out charges was carried out by the Irish Independent.