MADRID – Spain's Catalonia region has started charging mountain climbers, skiers and other outdoor adventurers who get into trouble through negligence and need to be rescued.
And the bills could be steep: euro2,271 ($3,325) per hour of helicopter use, euro30 ($44) per hour for each rescuer called into action, and euro39 an hour ($57) per rescue vehicle.
For the past year the government of the northeast region — home to part of the Pyrenees mountain range — has been sending bills to all people who required emergency rescues. However, that was just for them to see how much the operation cost and encourage them to be more careful.
But fire department director Olga Lanau told The Associated Press that starting Thursday people deemed to have been negligent in such cases will have to pay for mobilizing rescue teams. Catalonia is the first Spanish region to institute this policy.
Again, the goal is to jolt people into treating the wilderness with respect.
"We are not doing this to raise money, but rather to avoid accidents as much as possible," Lanau said from Barcelona, the regional capital.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15, rescue teams went out on mountain rescue missions 365 times. Lanau said she did not have exact figures on how many involved negligence but said that in general the proportion is low, perhaps 5 percent.
Examples of perpetrators are skiers who go off trail despite signs warning of possible avalanches, hikers that ignore signs about landslides, adventurers of all kinds who set out with inadequate equipment, and people who call in rescuers for reasons that turn out to be non-emergencies.
Other Spanish regions where mountain-climbing and other outdoor sports are popular have contacted Catalan authorities to see how their program will work and are considering being even stricter, Lanau said.