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Firefighters let home burn because owners didn't pay fee

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:42pm

A Tennessee family watched their home burn to the ground Monday as just a few feet behind them, firefighters watched, too.

It's happened multiple times before in one community: firefighters refuse to respond because the homeowner didn't pay a fire subscription fee.

The last time this happened the city of South Fulton, Tennessee received a lot of heat nationwide for their policy.

That was more than a year ago, but nothing has changed.

The mayor said it comes down to simple business.

If they don't collect fire fees, the fire department can't survive, and if they make exceptions to the rule no one will ever pay the fee.

Besides that, he says he likes the "pay for spray" policy and insists it's fair.

That's hard to stomach when you've just lost your home and everything you've worked for.

"In an emergency, the first thing you think of, 'Call 9-1-1," homeowner Vicky Bell said.

Firefighters came out.

"9-1-1 said they were in fact dispatched and they showed that they were on the scene," Bell added.

But once on the scene, they only watched.

"You could look out my mom's trailer and see the trucks sitting at a distance," Bell said.

For Bell, that sight was almost as disturbing as the fire itself.

"We just wished we could've gotten more out," Bell said.

It's a controversial policy.

If you live in the city, you get fire protection but if not, you have to pay the $75 fire protection fee each year.

With this policy, the city makes no exceptions.

"There's no way to go to every fire and keep up the manpower, the equipment, and just the funding for the fire department," Mayor David Crocker said.

Crocker said by now everyone should know about the city's fire policy.

"After the last situation, I would hope that everybody would be well aware of the rural fire fees, this time," Crocker said.

Bell and her boyfriend admitted they were aware, but thought this would never happen to them.

Now a hotel is home, and they're just happy be alive.

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