Fire dept. watches home burn because family didn’t pay fee
Firefighters in one Tenn. county watched this week as a family’s home burned to the ground, refusing to take action to save the structure because the residents had not paid their yearly $75 fee.
Homeowner Vicky Bell told a reporter with NBC affiliate station Local 6 WPSD that she immediately called 9-1-1 when the fire began, and emergency crews rushed to the scene.
Unfortunately for Bell, once firefighters arrived they realized that the family had not contributed to the department this year, so they stood down — exactly as instructed to by the City of South Fulton’s “pay for spray” policy.
Due to budget cuts, residents of rural areas outside the city limits have to pay the city for fire protection, or face potential disaster.
Shocking as that sounds, it is not unheard of in Obion County: the very same thing happened in Oct. of last year, even as the homeowner frantically offered to pay anything if they’d help save her home.
“We are a city fire department,” city manager Jeff Vowell said at the time. “We are responsible for the City of South Fulton and we offer a subscription (to rural residents). If they choose not to, we can’t make them.”
The policy has been publicly condemned by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), which called South Fulton’s practice “ill-advised” and “unsafe.”
“[Firefighters] shouldn’t be forced to check a list before running out the door to see which homeowners have paid up,” the IAFF said.
In a similarly shocking incident this past August, police and firemen in Alameda, Calif. stood by and watched a man drown because they did not have enough money to pay for shore-to-water rescue certifications.
They later recruited a civilian to retrieve the man’s lifeless body from the surf, and officials cited the incident as reason to change their policies.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of South Fulton, Tenn.
The video below is from NBC affiliate Local 6 WPSD in Tennessee.
Photo: Flickr user The U.S. Army