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Cost of service far outweighs the fees

Cost of service far outweighs the fees

The paying of rural fire subscription fees has been a hot topic for a while, but local fire chiefs continue to stress to the public that regularly paying fees means a much larger cost will be avoided.
In a recent incident of a propane tank explosion, a response from the Sharon Fire Department with mutual aide and ultimately a battle through two court systems, 27th District Circuit Court Judge William Acree ruled that a $2,500 cost to a homeowner who had not paid the rural fire subscription fees was a fair charge.
“It’s a fair amount when you take into consideration manpower, fuel, mutual aid, upkeep and the amount of money it takes to operate a fire department,” Sharon Fire Chief Gary Eddings remarked.
According to Eddings, city tax payers support the service, but county people pay if they want a response.
Rural fire subscription fees are $75 in Greenfield, Gleason and Sharon and $100 in Martin and Dresden. All municipalities enforce the same policies, but collect the fees at different times of the year.
Roughly 25 percent of people within Eddings’ jurisdiction don’t pay the fees and, additionally, both Eddings and Martin Fire Department Chief Russell Schwahn stressed that if insurance companies are aware that homeowners are not paying the fees, the insurance payment will increase.
“For a Class 12 rating with no protection, the rates will go through the roof,” Eddings commented.
According to Schwahn, the Weakley County Fire Chiefs Association turns in a list of those homeowners who have not paid and the insurance companies seek to raise the rates.
In the Martin area, Schwahn reported a collection rate that has recently spiked at 76 percent due, in large part, he admitted, to the incident in South Fulton that garnered national attention when firefighters refused to extinguish a fire at a man’s house who had not paid his fees.
“For us, to fight a rural fire takes two pumpers, fuel and a minimum of nine responders at an overtime rate of $15-$18 an hour and that’s not counting wear and tear,” Schwahn explained.
In responding to every call outside of the city limits, Schwahn admitted that there are around 50 to 60 percent of people who never pay a fee.
Bob Dudley, Greenfield Fire Chief and head of the Weakley County Fire Chiefs Association, admitted he collects about 65 percent of rural fire subscription fees in his district.
As head of the association, he stressed the importance of supporting the fire departments in their daily fights.
“We must support these departments. They need all the support they can get. They work overtime in responding to these calls and diesel is $4 a gallon,” he remarked. “Just find out your fee is, when it’s supposed to be paid and pay it. Wherever you live, check with your local fire department, pay your fee and support those departments whether it’s Weakley County, Obion County or anywhere.”

WCP 10.04.11

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