Apparatus & Equipment, Firefighting, Legal

TN Firefighters Watch as Home Burns

In a retread of a similar incident last year, South Fulton (TN) Fire Department firefighters stood by as fire consumed a home where the property owners had not paid the $75 fire subscription fee.

The same department took no action in  September 2010 when another homeowner’s residence burned.

Vicky Bell told WPSD-TV ( that she called 911 when her mobile home in Obion County caught fire. Firefighters responded but did not extinguish the fire because she does not subscribe to the local fire service. Bell said she could see fire apparatus staging at a distance, but firefighters made no effort to stop the fire.

The South Fulton mayor claims firefighters would intervene if anyone’s life was in danger.

In many areas of the rural United States, fire protection is paid for by a property tax paid each year or through some sort of alternative funding mechanism such as subscription services. As noted by retired deputy fire chief and attorney John K. Murphy in his article on the prior incident (CLICK HERE), these incidents present a moral and legal dilemma for the fire service. “Public emergency services such as police and fire are essential governmental services much like the military,” Murphy writes. “The difficult part is how we pay for those services and who will accept responsibility if we do not pay.”