Edmison recommends rural fire protection

Edmison recommends rural fire protection

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:04 pm
By: Chris Menees Messenger Staff Reporter

By CHRIS MENEES Messenger Staff Reporter Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison says several rural residents have signed up for the city’s rural fire service in the aftermath of some publicity about a recent fire that destroyed a home outside South Fulton. He said the incident is good time to remind rural residents about the rural fire subscription service. The important reminder comes on the heels of a July 2 fire that destroyed a home on Lakeview Drive just outside the South Fulton city limits. The home was not listed among those covered by South Fulton’s rural fire subscription service, which, as established by the city government there, is available to rural residents at a fee of $75 per year. Edmison wants rural residents in the Union City area to be reminded that the Union City Fire Department also offers a rural fire subscription service outside the city limits, also at a fee of $75 per year. “We have a subscription service, too, and in order to receive (rural) fire coverage, you have to be signed up,” he said. He noted that the fire department will respond regardless of whether or not someone is a rural fire service member if the situation involves a life in danger or someone being trapped. Edmison said Obion County is very unusual in the fact that most counties in the state have a county fire department, but there is no existing county department locally and it apparently is listed as a county fire department only on paper. “All fire service in the county is handled by the municipal fire departments and the rescue squad that does grass fires,” Edmison said. “All these municipal fire departments are tax-based. There are three departments that do have (rural fire) subscriptions — South Fulton, Union City and Kenton. “I hear a lot of things where people are saying it’s wrong and a lot of times people say, ‘Well, come on, I’ll pay you the $75 after the fact,’ but go ask your car insurance company if you can wait until you’ve had a wreck before you pay the premium,” he said. “People, unfortunately, have always looked at the fire service over the years as a bunch of good old boys that do this for nothing, and it’s getting harder and harder for departments to have volunteer departments because of the mandates that are coming out on training and everything else. A lot of departments are going to a partial paid-partial volunteer or full-time.” Edmison said the fire department works for the taxpayer “and that’s who pays.” He said one of the benefits of being a city resident and paying city taxes is receiving fire protection. He said in fairness to the county, the local fire chiefs have been working with county officials for the last several months in an effort to devise a financial solution to offering county fire service. He said there is no feasible way the county could start from scratch and have the funds to build a county fire department. Plus, he said there are some remote areas of the county that are virtually “no man’s land,” adding that even if a fire station was placed in such an area, there would still have to be personnel willing to work. “We’re trying to say, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got the equipment, got the manpower, if the county departments can work out an agreement of who covers what areas,’” he said. Edmison said there is currently a sort of imaginary circle that defines the county’s fire service areas and it is somewhat confusing. He said municipal fire departments throughout the county are trying to base their future response areas on the 911 system’s one-mile grids, with each department having certain grids and greatly simplifying the system. “The other thing that the county’s fire departments have been doing already is that when, say Rives, has a fire in their section, they’re paged, but the next two closest departments are paged with tankers to respond,” he said. “So people are really getting their service, and that’s what we’re trying to do. “But it can’t be done for nothing. People don’t fuss about paying $75 a month for cable, but yet they do for $75 a year (for rural fire service),” he added. “Whether you like it or not, it is a business. I wouldn’t expect my neighbor to pay my dish satellite bill and the people in the county can’t expect the citizens of the cities to pay for their fire service.” Edmison said some people who haven’t been pleased with paying the $75 per year rural fire fee have found out from their insurance companies that they are sometimes saving money on their insurance rates by doing so. “We just basically want to get the word out that the Union City program is basically the same way (as the South Fulton rural fire program),” he said. “Anyone who might be in our area, if they do not know for sure if they have coverage, they can call the fire department or come by and ask.” Union City’s rural fire service area is a radius of roughly five to six miles which has been established by the city council, according to Edmison. Subscription reminders are mailed out to existing customers in February or March and are due April 1 each year. New customers may sign up at any time during the year, with the fee pro-rated for the partial first year of service. Edmison said he commends the county for addressing the rural fire coverage matter, which he said has been examined many times in past years. Recently, though, he said there has been a more concerted effort that has involved county officials and fire officials working together. “I hope good things are coming,” he said. “In the meantime, each department has to do what it has to do to stay in existence and it could be just a council meeting away for any of the cities to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going outside the city limits anymore.’” Edmison said municipal fire departments are not required to go outside their city limits. He said he has had people to comment that they live in the county and they pay taxes, but he noted that those taxes don’t go to any of the municipal fire departments. “The fire service is a business. We do want to help people, we do want to save lives, but we can’t do it for nothing,” he added. “You’ve got to have a certain amount of funds coming in to be able to have the manpower, tankers, equipment on hand. You can’t just do it on a per-call basis and survive.” He said if the Union City Fire Department responds to a call for a rural customer who has paid their fee, the member is then billed a $500 fee that they can submit to their insurance company. “I try to explain it in an insurance way, too,” Edmison said. “It’s the same way with your car. If you have a fire and you’ve been paying a premium, we’re going to come, but then there’s a deductible and that’s kind of the way it is. You won’t find an insurance company or anybody who’ll say, ‘I want you, but wait until I have my accident, then I’ll pay my premium.’” ——— Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 7.10.08

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