Near the rural town of South Fulton, Tenn., outlying homeowners are required to pay a subscription fee to subsidize the fire department, local TV station WPSD reports. But when that $75 annual fee goes unpaid, homeowners like Vicky Bell find out the hard way what noncompliance entails.
After Bell reported that her mobile home was on fire, the fire department arrived, she told WPSD -- but they wouldn't intervene.
And yet, this is not the first time when the town's controversial "pay for spray" policy has rankled residents and drawn national attention. Last year, local resident Gene Cranick called in the fire department to save his double-wide mobile home on the outskirts of town, but he too had failed to pay the annual fee.
Instead, firefighters arrived to protect the property of Cranick's neighbor, who had paid the $75. The decision sparked public outrage, and the International Association of Fire Fighters issued a press release condemning the South Fulton policy, stating that the department's decision was "incredibly irresponsible."
Admittedly, homeowners in both cases were aware of the annual subscription fee, but still failed to pay. The fact that firefighters arrived on the scene in both cases, however, but refused to aid the victims, has drawn major criticism.
Still, the practice has its supporters. Mayor David Crocker stands behind the policy, he told WPSD, because the department depends on the subscription fee to cover the outskirts of town. Crocker said that firefighters will help when people are actually placed in danger, whether or not they've paid the fees, The Associated Press reports.
But considering a recent statistic showing that house fires in modern homes can become uncontrollable in less than 3 minutes, that claim may be suspect.
Tennessee Firefighters Watch as Home Burns