The following comment was received overnight from Chief Kelly Edmison of Tennessee’s Union City Fire Department. Union City is one of three departments to provide subscription fire service to Obion County. Chief Edmison has more information on the issue in a column on the department’s website titled Firefighters turn their backs? … Not so…The Truth about Subscription Fire Service in Obion County TN:
My name is Kelly Edmison. Chief of Union City Fire Dept. Union City TN. OBION County. We are 1 of the 8 city fire dept’s in Obion County. My department is the only fully paid dept.
Even though my department (Union City, TN) was not the department involved, it has been extremely hard viewing the news media storm this past week; especially, when no one has reported the truth about the situation yet.
Watching news cast after news cast with miss information makes me wonder just how much “other” news we see nightly about our country and world events is turned and twisted.
Obion County Tennessee does not have a county fire department. It does have 8 municipal fire departments. Union City, TN is the only full time staffed department in the county. The other 7 departments are volunteer departments; but like Union City, are city departments. Again, Obion County does not have a county fire department. Sadly, Obion County is one of two counties in the state who do not provide fire protection. County residents do pay county taxes. However, no tax money goes towards fire coverage. The 8 municipal departments are funded by each of their city tax payers.
Three of the cities, Union City, Kenton and South Fulton operate a subscription fire service in an attempt to help the rural people in their respective areas. Union City has operated this way for over 47 years. They all three charge a $75 per year fee. It’s not a tax. It’s not mandatory. But the service is there if they wish. The reason these three charge a fee, is because the cities do not feel it fair to take the city tax payers money and service and give it to county residents for free.
Their policies are the same. With the exception of a life endanger; if you don’t pay; they don’t come.
However, once South Fulton had to respond to take care of the neighbor whose property caught fire and was a subscriber, that’s the point where in my opinion the outcome probably would have been different. But I’m not South Fulton.
But here is what the public doesn’t understand. Right, wrong or indifferent, it was not the decision of the South Fulton Fire Chief or of his firefighters to not put water on the structure. Their orders came from their city manager and mayor and council. Was it wrong? Everyone has an opinion (We would have put it out if for no other reason than that we had to come anyway and that was the damn fire that was endangering the neighbor who had the coverage.) If they had tried to put it out the chief would have been fired, the fire fighters terminated and there wouldn’t have been any body left to help fight fire for the majority of the rural residents in their area who do pay the annual fee.
The remaining 5 departments (city departments) in the county have been going out into the county without a subscription service with the hope that after responding they will bill the home owner and collect. It hasn’t been working. One of these departments even though it is a city department, has to get change out of their outside coke machine that sits on the front of their station just to have money to put fuel in their tank. They get very little help from their own city, let alone NO revenue from the county. Financially these departments will be forced to either go to a subscription based service or draw back into their respective city limits. If that happens, there won’t be any fire protection in three quarters of the county.
No firefighter wants to see a home go up in flames; but especially for the volunteer departments, the cake sales and fish fries just don’t cut it anymore. One set of gear to out fit a firefighter can exceed $3,000. A fire truck easily costs more than a quarter of a million dollars. How many cakes do you think it will take? And who again is paying for this? The “city” taxpayer.
The state of TN guarantees that as a tax payer; city or county, you are promised two things. One, garbage pickup will be provided. And two, law enforcement will be provided. Fire service apparently isn’t considered that important.
What people need to know is the fire problem in Obion County is NOT South Fulton’s problem or any of the other 7 departments. It’s a county problem.
The other 7 city chiefs and myself have been working with the county for over four years now in trying to convince then to go with a fire tax like most counties in this country operate and we would all gladly get rid of this subscription crap. The county currently wants all cities to go subscription and the county will collect and distribute.
I as an individual have been catching holy hell this week from all over the country, and wasn’t even the department involved. All I have been trying to do is defend some brother firefighters who weren’t given a choice as to what they could do; defending a program, though not perfect has been a successful program in Union City at least for over 47 years. South Fulton has run theirs for 20. It’s kept the doors open and help provided protection to a majority of rural customers in our Union City area who if it were not for the blessing of our city government would not have any fire protection what so ever because the County still does not want to pass a fire tax for county residents.
It has been one week. Not one letter to the editor has appeared in any of the papers. I’m not hearing complaints from the county residents. I’m only getting my ass chewed out from one end of the country to the other. I apologize for interrupting your forum. It’s late; I’m mad, and I wanted to vent. Honestly, this has been the most civil forum I have come across. And the only one I have taken part it.
Hope you all stay safe and please never judge until you have the facts.