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Fire Chief says ‘Not our problem’. Two closest fire companies refuse response as two AZ homes burn in area without fire protection.

Tucson News Now

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One of the homeowners says, “This isn’t the American way, not to help someone out.”  One of the fire chiefs says, “Too many people have the mentality that the government is going to provide service for them and they’re oblivious until the fire happens.”

Two different views on a fire over the weekend that destroyed two homes in Picacho in Arizona’s Pinal County. It’s an area that does not have fire protection. According to news reports, when the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department got the 911 call it first asked the Eloy Fire District to respond three miles from the fire, but outside the fire district where no one pays for fire protection. Eloy declined.

The same answer came from Regional Fire about 20 minutes away. In the end, Avra Valley Fire was the only department to respond and its firefighters had a 30-mile drive.

Tucson News Now:

“It’s like everything I had I don’t have anymore,” said Edward Ortiz.

His home is now a pile of ashes. Next door, Bruce Martan also lost everything including the home his deceased father built.

“If they would’ve responded 3 miles away to send their resources. One truck would’ve put this out in 5 minutes,” said Martan.

(Reporter) Matt Mendes asked “There’s an ethical question. If you guys are 3 miles away and there’s another fire station 30 miles away?”

Eloy Fire Chief Coy Amerson: “Not our problem. Sorry, but you’re not in the district you’re not our problem.”

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Comments - Add Yours

  • 8truck

    Another black eye for the fire service. I don’t care if they didn’t pay or they’re not in your district. You want money then charge the insurance company after the fact. God forbid someone does a kind act. At least one dept has the right mindset. Too bad they were 30 miles away.

  • 6ftHook

    Hes says its Un-American not to help someone. I say its becoming more and more American to expect something for nothing.

  • north chief

    This is a great example of what our country has become. I haven’t prepared for disaster, now you HAVE to help me. Sorry pal, not my fault you don’t have a fire department, how is it my responsibilty to pay for your lack of planning? I agree with the chief. Everyone wants something for free, those days are over.

  • Steve

    As someone who has personally paid for fuel for our pumper when there was no other alternative, I can say I understand the situation here. These trucks dont run on air. If you expect to have an FD when you need them, you have to support them when you don’t!

  • Boots207

    Makes an old Truckie sick to my stomach

  • FF E3 B shift

    It’s a tough call, but one that has to be made. We don’t know the history of this area. This FD could have offered fire protection to this area for a nominal fee and they could have rejected it. These chiefs have a responsibility to their taxpayers FIRST. Had they responded and then a fire occurred in their own district the fire department would have some serious questions to answer.
    Local politicians all across the country have cut us and cut us. We are the first to be cut many times. It’s time to take a stand against their cuts. We can no longer continue to do more with less. We owe it to ourselves and our staff to insist our department are provided to financial resources to provide the level of service that is expected of us.

    • http://www.coronafire.org Chief Whitehouse

      FF E3 B Shift: Picacho has had several big fires with bad outcomes over the last ten years. They told the outside agencies they would not pay for services rendered, so they don’t get a lot of sympathy. I would have sent a engine, but we are 60 miles away and nobody asked. I don’t agree with the decision not to help, but I understand why. Picacho needs to get their shit together. Chief Bruce Whitehouse Corona de Tucson FD

      • dave statter

        Thanks for the insight chief.

  • Fire21

    Yup, it comes down to entitlement. Everyone thinks the govt is gonna save them for no cost. EVERYTHING costs something, even fire protection. Our national attitude has become one of “let everyone else pay for what I’m receiving.” Somebody has to pay for it, so it might as well be you. If you didn’t know you had to pay for public services, shame on you!

    I understand the “act of kindness” thing. I try to be nice to everyone, but sometimes my “nice” gets exhausted by people who aren’t smart enough to help themselves. Bad things happen…prepare for them!

    • dave statter

      As I have said in previous pay for spray stories, it always sets the firefighters up to be the bad guys, no matter how legally right the department is.

      My biggest question is this concept that we respond only when there are life safety issues. How do you know if someone is in danger if you aren’t there? That’s a mighty big assumption. Seems to be the complete opposite view of those in the fire service who are strong advocates of being aggressive in vacant buildings because someone could be inside.

      • FF E3 B shift

        Dave,

        The difference (In my humble opinion) is that these vacant buildings are in our territories. We are paid by our local governments to take all reasonable risk to protect lives and property in the areas within our jurisdiction. Our cities do not provide our neighboring communities a service our taxpayers are having to pay for. (Mutual aid excluded) It is the local governments job to provide emergency services to our communities. In my opinion, the local elected officials should be to blame for not ensuring adequate fire protection. We are treated so differently from Law Enforcement. They always come up with the money to provide police protection but continue to roll the dice on fire protection.

        • dave statter

          FF E3 B shift,

          Good points. I have made the same one about police protection in talks for decades. I still say you can’t tell if there is a life hazard while sitting in the firehouse. Though that can present the other issue you really want to avoid, being at the scene and watching it burn. We saw how well that went in Obion County, TN.

          But I am trying to look at the bigger picture. Firefighters often portray themselves as a different breed. They are special in many ways and the they want the public to view them that way (though, as we know, the public is quite fickle). These situations put firefighters in the position of losing what sets them apart. It isn’t usally their fault but they end up taking the fall locally as well as impacting the image of all firefighters.

          No easy answers here, but I believe fire chiefs need to fight as hard as they can to avoid being put in this situation.

  • Jeff

    I think the appropriate answer to these kinds of stories are to respond, then put a mechanics lien on the property. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanic%27s_lien). State law may need adjustment, etc. Obviously, the company needs to be paid to function and while I understand the horror of a company not responding, fire departments are insurance. If nobody’s paying it, it can’t pay out.

    • Poophouse Atty

      I just had the same thought. Dave, could you ask Curt Varone if this would fly if there was no pre-existing contract

  • http://www.coronafire.org Chief Whitehouse

    There is a history up there in Picacho and Eloy. Years ago there was a large motel fire and multiple agencies fought the fire. The town of Picacho apparently refused to pay any bills for services rendered as fire districts are obligated to bill for calls outside their districts. They were left to get their own fire department or contract with somebody and never have. I am not saying it is right, but these small towns need to take care of their people. We would respond, no questions asked. But we are 60 miles away and nobody asked us. Sad for the fire service without a doubt.

  • FF E3 B shift

    Chief Whitehouse,

    I respect your stance. There is, however, a lot of gray area. It all depends on our background and our personal situations as to how we view this. It looks like your city is behind you and your FD. The city I work for isn’t so much. Our state statute allows individual home and business owners the ability to opt out of an annexation. Over the years this has happened many times. I a few cases there are homes in nearly the middle of our city that are not in city limits due. They do not pay for city police and fire protection. One such home is multi million dollar home. Should we as a FD with only 5 stations commit resources to this property? Our department’s view is no. But because these people are “connected” we will be most certainly required to respond with what little resources we have leaving our other residents with minimal staff available to handle their emergency. Unfortunately, these people that refused to start their own FD or contract with a neighboring FD in the Picscho area have continued to be re elected or ones with the same views have been elected in their place. If I was a resident of that area I would go to the neighboring city and offer I may out of my pocket for them to respond to fires at my home to protect my family. Then I would campaign hard to elect someone who puts my safety and the safety of their residents first during the next election. I am not arguing, just simply stating the view from my “neck of the woods”.

    • FF E3 B shift

      Please excuse the typos.

  • Molly

    I would bet that most residents in this place didn’t even know they were without fire protection. If the local officials are too lazy and ignorant to make arrangements with the FD’s around them, then they sure as hell are going to be informing their constituents of the fact.

  • Anonymous

    ask obama in the white house for a fire dept, he just loves to give money and other things to people that dont want to work for a living.

  • Newbie

    Are these departments eligible for any of the public funding and/or grants that are offered by the federal government? If they have ever received public money then they should be providing a public service regardless of ability to pay. They should also have mutual aid agreements in place to ensure coverage if they need to leave their district.

    My depts. don’t get a phone call asking if we’ll help… we get a call we go and we go help. We opt not to bill for our services, but if we did I promise we’d respond first, and bill later.

    In this day and age it’s pathetic that anybody should watch their home burn because a local department doesn’t want to help. The fact that there isn’t a department in place to cover the area is also very concerning. No matter how rural you are you should be able to expect some kind of response to an emergency.

  • Robert Kramer

    From a firefighters stand point 3 miles away, it is sickening. From the fire chiefs perspective and the taxpayers who are paying for a service within their fire district, I get it.

  • David S.

    Anonymous you have a good point maybe the feds need to step up and get some fire protection for this area or improve the existing ones so this does not happen again.

  • 6ftHook

    …thats exactly the problem with this country. Its always someone elses job to do something. You should EXPECT absolutely nothing unless youre either willing to pay for it or do it yourself. People need to become more dependant on themselves and less dependant on others.

    • dave statter

      And if we put firefighters in the position of making judgments about who deserves service and who doesn’t you will lose your special identity as firefighters. Whether it is or isn’t exactly what’s wrong with this country, firefighters should be checking their political beliefs at the door and do the job.

      • Robert Kramer

        The thing is Dave, it is not a judgement at all. Government works under the premise that citizens pay taxes for services they receive from an entity that has legally established boundaries – those that live inside the boundary pay the tax and receive the service. Those that reside outside of the boundary do not pay the tax and do not receive the service.

        I understand your premise that the Fire service as a whole is held in high regard and wants to b viewed as a more important service than garbage pick up or cable TV, but apply the same questions there. Had the homeowners trash become too large a pile, should one of these cities sent a garbage truck to pick it up for free because it is the nice or American thing to do?

        It’s time that people apply the same logic to fire protection as they do police, trash, cable, and whatever other service you would like to receive when ou want or need it – you get what you pay for. There are now at least 2 people in the community who realize the need for fire protection.

        • dave statter

          Robert my friend,

          Do you really want to compare it to picking up garbage?

          So, let’s take it a step further. The fire department should have a list of all people who pay their taxes on time and don’t get any handouts or subsidies from the government. Only those people should get the service. Right?

          I just think it’s smart to keep firefighters out of the decision process and out of the middle of who does and doesn’t get service. More and more I see firefighters on Facebook and various forums passing judgment on people and whether they deserve service or not. Think of the firefighter who lost his job stating his opinion on Facebook about the mother of an accident victim he treated.

          I just think, for the better of the fire service, those are conversations that are best left a the firehouse kitchen table. And I think firefighters should not be put in the position of being the heavy in these situations.

          My opinion is when you start sliding down this slope your profession won’t be any more special than that of a sanitation engineer.

          Statter

          • Robert Kramer

            I don’t disagree Dave and honestly had not considered the who lives in “the area” but is delinquent on their taxes angle.

            I do not know the resources or call volume of any of the agencies involved. I imagine the primary concern is sending resources outside of your standard response area for non paying recipients of the service and then not having resources available for a call inside your response area.

            Like I said originally, from the firefighters perspective I agree with you and would want to respond. I can also see the logic and liability concerns of a Mayor, Fire Chief, or citizens who are paying their taxes.

            In the end, I absolutely agree that it is the firefighters that end up getting the largest portion of he shit sandwich and it should be worked out way befor it happens. Sadly, it will continue to happen because of politics and pride.

          • dave statter

            In each case the firefighters end up getting the stinky end. Yes sir.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty simple:

    1. Start a fire department, or

    2. Pay an existing fire department for coverage, or

    3. Go without fire protection, and without means WITHOUT!

    Pick an option and then deal with it.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree that this situation is never a good one, when it comes down to it sometimes you just cant send your trucks out of town. Where I come from many towns around have their own fire departments, most are small with 2-3 trucks and maybe, MAYBE 10-15 people on a good day. If I send all of my trucks (plus all of mutual aid’s trucks) out of town and there is an incident or emergency in my town who will cover it? Plus there are also towns in the area (one in our coverage area)that have no fire department of their own. They have in the past refused to pay the same rate (tax based) that the citizens of the town that the fire department belongs to pay. This in my mind is wrong. If you want, and get the same service, then you have to pay for it. We have also in the past had to either get the money or stop service and leave them to find another department to cover their area, and sometimes that is what it takes. The people and the town fathers are willing to chance it in order to get a free service because they are too cheap to pay for things of this nature. Its the same situation here, if you want the service you have to pay for it, period, plain and simple. I understand that people feel that it is wrong of the fire dept to watch a house burn, and I would absolutely feel awful if I were put in the situation, but these people will throw you under the bus at budget time to save a few bucks, or outright refuse to pay for your service, and turn around a cry when they have an emergency and there is no one to help them out. Im sorry people but sometimes we have to be big boys and girls and take some responsibility for our actions.

    Also the problem with the spray now, pay later options is that if you dont have (or wont pay) the money now, why would I expect you would have more money later?

    Also where I come from, it is a state law that incorporated towns must pay for some form of fire protection for their citizens. This could be a pick up truck with a pump in it or a career fire department, but it has to be something.

  • MrPredictable

    Although it sucks for the homeowner, the firefighters involved and gives the fire service a black eye the right decision was made.

    You don’t expect city water, streets or sewer once you get out of the district(unless an agreement or another entity is in play) why is fire service any different? The people who fund that particular service should expect that service to be available to them and those who don’t shouldn’t. Otherwise why should you pay for any of these services?

    So please don’t try to demonize those who have to contend with living on the borders of fire protection. As someone who does believe me that we would like to fight those fires. We just know we can’t.

  • Anonymous

    To David S, my point was’nt for the feds to money up. My point was no one ever wants to pay for anything anymore. Obama has been given money out left and right to people that wont work for a living. My kids will be paying for years because people keep voting him in. THANKS!

    • dave statter

      If I am the David S you are talking about, I respect your opinion that you believe that is a problem. I just think that should be unrelated to who gets fire service and who doesn’t. The more you connect the two, the more being a firefighter will be nothing special.

  • Robert Kramer

    There was a “David S” that responded specific to that guys post. Don’t think he was referencing you.

    • dave statter

      Thanks. I wasn’t sure. Comments coming in here and on three different spots on Facebook confuses an old man.

  • http://rmesfire.org Jay911

    I’m left with the same question I always have when I see stories like this. How do you legally have areas that don’t have fire protection? In other words how is Pinal County not on the hook to provide fire protection for this area? Where I live (admittedly in Canada), there isn’t such a thing as an area that has no fire protection. My department covers a portion of Rockyview County, among other regions. If it’s outside our jurisdiction (and ignoring the fact we’d go anywhere if asked), Rockyview County has units and departments that would be tasked to respond. If it’s in a region of the province that is not part of Rockyview County or any other county, the provincial forestry fire crews will respond. (Caveat: there are no residential areas not covered by county/municipal departments; even in an area where “forestry” is the only department, a muni dept is contracted to attend structures.)

    It’s just not *possible* in this country – or at least this province – to have a municipality or portion thereof where there is no fire protection. If Rockyview County were to say “we’re not covering such and such an area of the county”, the province would certainly have something to say about it. And there’s no means for “opting out” of the portion of your taxes that go toward fire protection.

    It just baffles me that this kind of situation is possible in the USA.

    • BH

      Oh good, I was afraid this whole thread would go by without being told once again what a silly, backwards country this is by someone who’s never been here.

  • He

    I did a tax search for this property. Picacho chose to go UNINCORPORATED, so there are no taxes paid to the town of Picacho. Attatched is the tax bill due to PINAL COUNTY 2012. PROPERTY TAX STATEMENT ARIZONA
    PRIMARY TAX RATE PER
    $100 ASSESSED VALUE
    SECONDARY TAX RATE PER
    $100 ASSESSED VALUE
    SPECIAL DISTRICT
    $ PER ACRE
    411-22-03205
    2012 TAX SUMMARY
    PRIMARY PROPERTY TAX 282.88
    LESS STATE AID TO EDUCATION 40.54
    NET PRIMARY PROPERTY TAX 242.34
    SECONDARY PROPERTY TAX 87.72
    SPECIAL DISTRICT TAX 0.00
    TOTAL TAX DUE FOR 2012 330.06

    You get what you pay for. I’ll bet there were no Fire Insurance on this property either, who would write a policy on a property that had no fire protection.

  • FF E3 B Shift

    Dave,
    Unfortunately, I believe we have already lost what made our profession “special”. For a combination of reasons. Primarily, our marketing SUCKS. We as a fire service in general provide our customers with little to no information on what exactly we do. They don’t understand why we take that “big truck” to the grocery store,they don’t know who pays for our meals, they aren’t informed. Most of that is our fault. Then they see our dumbass coworkers post less than flattering stuff online. We are in the ME generation. If he or she gets it then I should too. If we go next door to put out a fire for free, our citizens might start to expect the same. When they stop paying, we can’t operate. Then everyone loses. People need to know what we have to do to accomplish the task of meeting their expectations if we ever want to improve our image.

    Thank you Dave for the direct interaction. I love your website and enjoy the opportunity to discuss the items you post with you directly!

    • dave statter

      And I enjoy it too. I appreciate those who disagree with me as much as those who agree with me. It makes it interesting.

      By the way I don’t WANT anyone to think I am naive about the pressures on these jurisdictions that have subscriptions or aren’t providing services beyond their borders or that I am unsympathetic to their plight.

      Very interesting to read how Canada handles it from Jay911.

      I understand what you are saying about what makes the profession “special”. It’s an issue that concerns me.

      Thanks FF E3 B Shift.

  • CHAOS

    Having never been in a “fire district” situation, I can’t attempt to fathom the mindset. In my world, where local governments fund emergency services, it’s always been “the bells ring, we go”. Yeah, their are regular mutual aid agreements with neighboring municipal FDs, they come to our parties, and we go to theirs. But, even back in my days of wheeling a ladder truck all over a good chunk of our county that didn’t have any others, we routinely went to towns that would never be coming back to ours until we got to a serious number of alarms, maybe. And, there was never any talk of “we ain’t gonna go back to that town if they don’t pay”. Maybe if I grew up in a situation like these folks have I might understand it more.

  • Art of Fire

    Dave,

    As I read your comments and reflect on the true meaning of what makes firefighters “special,” I’m led to believe that it is they will provide their service to whomever calls, regardless of finances. While I believe this is a noble idea, I think our “customers” do not agree with this idea.

    In these areas of subscription fire service, the customers choose the level of service they wish to have AND they implicitly mandate that that service is only provided to the paying members.

    If these departments provided the service to whomever called, then very few would pay the subscription and the service would disappear. While this may force the politicians in the area to develop a better system, it would not be good for the current fire departments.

    I believe you are mistaken to believe that firefighters are special because they are willing to provide the service for free. Police Officers and the Military are viewed as “special” and they certainly are compensated and funded adequately.

    In this era of “more with less,” diamond benefits on tin budgets, and demonized public workers, it’s hard to allow our services to be exploited in the name of “special.”

    It’s been made pretty clear to me over the last half decade that most folks view me as special only when it comes to my pension, my “cadillac benefits” and overinflated salary.

    • dave statter

      No, this isn’t about just providing a service free of charge to whoever calls that makes you special. I just believe the fire service undermines itself when it either is forced or wants to be the decider of who gets the service and who doesn’t.

      The firefighters writing here and elsewhere about society’s freeloaders, entitlements, etc. apparently think brining in their political view of the world to firefighting is a good idea. I don’t fault them for having that view (I have many friends who do), but using that as a standard on deciding who gets service is ridiculous and goes against everything the fire service is about. On top of that, deciding you aren’t going to provide that service to those who don’t pay taxes or who you view as society’s freeloaders will mean we need a lot fewer firefighters.

      Isn’t my neighbor who fails to pay his property tax bill for a long time because he lost his job and is now bankrupt just another version of the person who fails to pay the local fire department in Obion County the annual subscription fee? Isn’t my neighbor a freeloader now using entitlements (food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc) one of those people getting a free ride and isn’t worthy of this service?

      • 8truck

        Well said Dave

      • Art of Fire

        Dave,

        My feelings aren’t based on any political view or my perception that “freeloaders” don’t deserve fire protection. I do believe that citizens and their elected officials decide what services they want and will provide, not the fire department. The fire departments are not the group driving this bus. The table had been set for these issues long before the incident.

        I’m sure that the reason many of the folks that decided to move into this unincorporated area did so because the land was cheap and the taxes were cheaper. I have no issue with that, but they can’t be surprised when they discover that the services provided by those low taxes are minimal AND it is not reasonable to believe that the services should be provided by others who pay for them.

        As someone else pointed out, what if a resident of the “closest” fire company had an incident and their department was tied up fighting this fire? While that is rare, it would cause an issue.

        As for the ghetto argument, the reality of these ghetto areas is that the tax rates paid by those who do are some of the highest in the nation. And while many of the residents of the ghetto may not be paying taxes, the property owner is or should be. Coupled with that is the fact that your neighbor who fails to pay his property taxes will find a lien on his home. There is a mechanism in place to extract these fees. For these folks in AZ, the mechanism was to choose to pay the subscription for the service.

        Furthermore, what about areas of a city that have a county fire company closer to their home, but would never see that company respond on an incident? Isn’t this a similar situation? Should those companies self dispatch to these incidents in order to remain “special?”

        I do believe that the fire chief who is quoted as saying “it’s not our problem” was flippant and should have used the incident as a teaching moment. I may have even learned that idea from you. But to say that these incidents tarnish the reputation of the fire service is a stretch. While the fire department may find itself in the spotlight because it’s an easy target, the real issue lies with the citizens who choose to live in an area without fire protection. Frankly, I’d love to see legislation mandating that every home pay for fire protection, but you will never see that in this “don’t tread on me” world we live in now.

  • Putz

    ok,, i had something similiar to this where i lived before i moved to where i am now… small town just outside a larger town, however we had a fire service but it closed down due to funding and understaffing.. but, the larger town took the area that the fire service covered and notified everyone in that small town that they had done so without paying, but in all we the towns people agreed on a tax to pay for the service.. there are two sides to this but no matter how you look at it there’s never a winner… but as the saying goes ..” when called, i shall arrive for duty” that motto still part of that towns fire service!

  • http://facts-or-fear.com Tony Araujo

    FF E3 B Shift says:

    “Unfortunately, I believe we have already lost what made our profession “special”. For a combination of reasons. Primarily, our marketing SUCKS.”

    The recent media stories from up here in Toronto reinforce what FF E3 B Shift is saying, there’s little special in your profession these days.

    After weeks of an expensive fear mongering campaign which the IAFF Local tried to convince the citizens was all about their safety, the media reported on an internal union memo that said the real reason for their campaign was to ensure firefighters had a good choice of “station locations” and “career opportunities”. Embarrassing stuff this.

    When self interest trumps the “firefighters calling” citizens start to wonder, are they much different than garbage collectors?

  • DaveOC

    All the best firefighters in the world work in the “ghettos” serving the people who live in the ghettos. Anyone who wants to be a good firefighter aspires to work in the ghetto houses. Most of those people who live in the ghetto don’t pay taxes but still have the best fire protection.
    If you don’t want to provide a service to the “freeloaders” then you should go work in a firehouse in the suburbs and die of boredom !
    Kinda ironic, huh ?

    • Pedro

      That pretty much sums it all up perfectly…but begs the question – If we are not here for our residents, and we are not here for our neighbors. than who are we here for? Ourselves?

  • PPFD

    Nobody needs the fire dept. unless its an emergency.

    Again, you get the government you elect.

    Dave, I love you man, really! But your a little too jaded. I have the “pleasure” of running in a EMS/Fire dept. The majority of the freeloaders know damn well what they are doing. They know no one will hold them accountable. They sleep all day, run the streets at night, drink, pop pills, make meth, have kids they could care less about just to get a government pay raise.

    They dial 911 and get a free ride to the ED, get free treatment, get free pills, while our tax dollars pay for it. These people have zero responsibility.

    Your “neighbor” he deserves the governments help. See, he had a job, and did pay taxes. Your neighbor wants to work and is most likely embarrassed by his situation. He is not a leach on society.

    The firefighters here did nothing wrong. The Chief is the boss, he said no and thats it. Sucks for the home owner and its easier to blame everyone else. This is prime time to demand Emergency Services from the people elected to serve.

    • dave statter

      I’m jaded. Okay. I will accept that.

      So who draws the line between “my neighbor” and the person you are talking about? When does “my neighbor” become your “freeloader”? Do you make that judgment? Does your company officer? Does the chief?

      I just think this a great conversation across a fire department kitchen table but really shouldn’t be a factor in deciding who should get services from the fire department. And if all the freeloaders were suddenly cut off, saving the taxpayers lots of money, there will be more than a few firefighters out of work.

      But I do 100 percent agree with you that the people should be raising hell trying to get the service in these areas. When the Obion County story occurred I said the same thing about the citizens and their elected leaders. It turned out the only people trying to solve that problem were the fire chiefs who did not like the system that was set up to fail and put them in the middle.

      The problem in AZ is they are in an unincorporated area. There is no local government.

      • Pedro

        Dave, I hear the point you are trying to make.

        None of the relevant details actually matter because; there is absolutely no compelling argument that relieves the fire department from culpability in the court of public opinion. Nothing. All the public sees is “FIRE CHIEF SAYS ‘NOT OUR PROBLEM’. TWO CLOSEST FIRE COMPANIES REFUSE RESPONSE AS TWO AZ HOMES BURN IN AREA WITHOUT FIRE PROTECTION”. Facts don’t add up to a hill of beans, and editorial corrections and apologies are buried on the back page.

        And I just don’t understand how Obama handing out money to freeloaders (such as GM & Chrysler) has anything to do with my Chief’s new fire SUV, much less a fire in Arizona…I just hope that the guy with TB gets treated for free at a hospital and doesn’t sneeze on the door handle at the mall.

  • TwistedTwister

    This mess is just a symptom. The US financial system is imploding. The rich just get richer. Let them eat bison and lobster! (Obama inauguration)

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t about Obama, freeloaders or the Feds…and it isn’t a new issue.
    Small district government is the norm rather than the exception in the western US. Fire districts are political entities with elected officials, boundaries, fixed budgets, etc. They are legally responsible for providing services to the people within their respective districts. If they respond outside of the district and, subsequently miss a fire inside it, they are legally on the hook.
    Laws governing fire districts vary from state to state, but nowhere is a fire district responsible for fire coverage outside their own boundaries, absent some kind of agreement or contract.
    The vast majority of people who lived outside of fire district boundaries used to be aware of their vulnerablity. More recently, people relocating from more urban to rural areas simply don’t understand that emergency services aren’t available to them. Some people don’t know that there is no fire protection in their area and discover that fact either when they have a fire, or when their insurance company is writing their policy.
    Either way, if a fire district is ‘closest’, they are in no way responsible for coverage and understand the liability of responding outside their coverage area.
    I grew up and started my fire service career on the east coast. Until I moved west I had never heard of, and wouldn’t have understood the fire district concept. After twenty years of living and working in a fire district, I get it. I understand the frustration others in the fire service feel when they view situations like this one from a distance, but I also understand the situation from up close.
    Yes, it sucks for the front line guys who appear to have been put in the position of making a tough decision, but in reality the decision was made for them years, or even decades ago.

  • WAHEID

    Most public fire departments in the U.S. are fully or partially funded by local governments using tax money collected in that jurisdiction. The government that funds the FD is also legally responsible for any liability incurred by the fire department and for any injuries to their firefighters. Therefore, government that funds the FD and which retains the liabilities associated with operating the FD has a responsibility to its citizens. They are well within their rights to make a determination where and under what circumstances their FD will operate. It is not, and should not, be a decision of a public FD to determine their operating area. Mutual aide works because it is “mutual,” with both parties agreeing to help each other. In the absence of any mutual aide agreement, and with the refusal of residents in some areas to contribute, they have no right to expect help from anyone. These residents made a conscious decision to stick out their necks and, in this case, they lost.

  • sheldon

    I’m not going to let the house burn and stand with my thumbs in my pockets. I’ll put out the fire and let the county figure it out later.
    Asst. chief

  • Proactive Chief

    I have helped setup fire protection arrangements for fire districts, cities, townships, etc..

    Trying to get the stakeholders (elected officials, fire dept’s., etc.) onboard to setup fire protection arrangements is not easy.

    There are differences on which fire dept. will provide the service, financing and a host of other issues.

    It may look great on paper, but putting the arrangement together with the stakeholders is sometimes a near riot.

    If a local jurisdiction (county, city, township, etc.) is offered an arrangement and refuses to accept it, then it is their peril if anything happens. If you are called to that “no mans land”, then say “it is not in our jurisdiction.” No need to apologize.

    There has to be a means to fund fire protection. If a county, city, township or even the individual property owners refuses to pay for the service, they are on their own. Fire protection is setup way ahead of any fires occuring.

    We all wish that these situations would not happen. They do, because some people do not see a need for fire protection, do not want to pay taxes and other reasons. Its their monkey on their back if something bad happens, not ours.

  • ukfbbuff

    Dave; Similiar to what Jay911 wrote, we too in California have something similiar so that no one is without fire protection.

    The FIRESCOPE/ICS Document 900-5/09 page 2: under

    Agreements of Cooperation

    Par. 2 “There is an array of agreements at various levels of governments and between agencies that allow for and provide assistance during times of emergencies. These agreements may provide assistance in the form of Mutual Aid, where assistance is rendered free of charge (non-reimbursable, generally a sort term duration assignment) or Assistance By Hire where the assistance will be paid for (reimbursed) by the user.”

    And the document goes on to describe more type of agreements that can be made.

    Obviously, once again it looks like Arizona with its “Local Control concept appears to be behind the “Power Curve”.

  • ukfbbuff

    Forgot;

    In the end, any so-called area Not having fire protection (not on US Government land) will come under the protection of the;

    California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection/Cal-Fire.

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  • Tree

    Most areas in the northeast are pretty inclusive, fire protection-wise. While there are occasionally local disputes on tax rates, truck purchases, etc, everyone knows that their tax bill is coming, and non-payment is relatively rare. We don’t have to worry about who hasn’t paid their property taxes because most folks have and our funding is secure.

    If someone doesn’t pay their taxes, they stand to lose their property. And that has happened. Even then, the township (the tax collector) pays the fire district their full cut first, even if not all of the taxpayers have sent in their payments yet.

    Localities that have specifically opted out of fire protection via fixed fees/taxes get little sympathy with me. And it appears that such is the case here, as well as in Obion County. The property owners are gambling that they won’t need the service, and then when they do, they wail and gnash their teeth about how the fire department wouldn’t help them in their hour of need.

    You’d think that folks would get the message – no pay, no spray. Whether that comes from a blanket tax (as is the case in much of the country) or subscription-type arrangements, it takes money to fight fires.

  • RoanokePete

    You say that the attitude of the average American now is “give me something for free,” when the attitude of the modern firefighter now, and this story is a great example, is “you only get my help if you deserve it.” Since when are our actions limited by what we get in return?

  • 6ftHook

    I dont believe its the fire service that has turned its back on the citizens. We arent the decision makers. I believe the citizens have turned their backs on the fire service.

    There is a concerted effort across this country to cut fire service funding. It spreads across policital parties and affiliations. This would not be possible without the citizens turning a blind eye towards the situation. When the politicians threaten to close pools and libraries due to budget cuts the citizens rally and the funding is restored. When the politicians threaten to close fire houses nary a sound is heard but fore a few vocal oppoents often drowned out by the relentless media talking heads.

    I often get the “we support you” from the public in day to day interactions both while on duty and off. I began about a year ago to ask these same people if they have talked to their councilman or the mayors office. Have they attened a community meeting to express their discontent with the funding cuts? Have they submitted a letter to the editor of the local paper voicing their displeasure? NOT ONCE in hundreds of these situations has ANY of them made a single attempt to formalize thier support.

    A pat on the back and a thumbs up doesnt keep your firehouse open.

    To say that politics have no place in this discussion is like putting your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes. The reality is…ITS ALL POLITICS!!!

    • dave statter

      There is no doubt the public is fickle and the bad ecomony helped push this problem. You will get no argument from me about that.

      But in some jurisdictions firefighters have helped fuel the feeling with some really poor decision making.

      The most important thing is to make sure your own house is clean before expecting the public to embrace you. I am not talking about the errant firefighter who screws up but I am talking about systemic problems (places where there has been legitimate sick leave abuse or promoting people to game the retirement system).

      Each one of those things impacts the image of all firefighters. Many of them were issues known by leadership (both management and labor) that should have been addressed before a politician, civic leader or reporter made a federal case out of it. These are patterns that have been showing up in city after city (though only a small amount of it is abuse). They are still occurring. Firefighters hurt themselves by waiting for it to become news rather than biting the bullet and solving it before then.

      Putting yourself as the decider of who gets service and who doesn’t is just another nail in that coffin. I am not saying politics has no place in the dicussion and am very aware about its role in all of this. In fact, I would like to see the fire chiefs and firefighters as politically active as possible to change the systems that puts them in the middle of a no win situation (the fire chiefs in Obion County worked in that direction).

      To be clear, my point about politics is very simple. Individual firefighters have their own political agendas, whether they are conservative, moderate or liberal. Those points of view should be left out of the decision making process of who gets service and who doesn’t. All of this talk in reference to this issue of entitlements, lazy people, handouts, etc., should be just that, talk across the firehouse kitchen table. Leave your personal politics out of the discussion of delivery of service or risk having even more serious image problems.

      Statter

  • Jamie

    I'm a volunteer for a very small rural fire district.  We survive on taxes paid by the property owners in our district.  We are surrounded by government land – out side of our district.  They contract for our services.  Except the federal government.  They have the most property (housing), but don't pay a contract.  Recently they asked our board of directors to sign a MOU saying we would respond to a fire on their property – for NO pay.  Our board refused.  The feds said that if we responded we could ask FEMA for reimbursement for our actual out of pocket expense.  Which means we would get nothing.  Private property that is out of our district – and where th owners choose not to contract for services, we can bill the insurance for response.  Sometimes we are paid, mostly not.   Why should the poor and elderly tax payers of our district pay to keep our trucks running, the lights on and our volunteers with equipment to use – while those who choose to build on property out of our district – can choose not to contract with us – but still expect to receive the same service?