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'Pay for spray' update: Tennessee's South Fulton FD says it was not on scene of controversial fire. Local chief says Kentucky company got close but had no authority to act.

  Chief Kelly Edmison, on the left, with Union City firefighters.

Coverage of most recent Obion County incident here & here

Previous coverage here, here, here, here, here and here

Chief Kelly Edmison's column from October 8, 2010

Chief Edmison's earlier comments about most recent incident

While the overall issue of a strict "pay for spray" policy is still very much alive in Obion County, Tennessee and an important subject for debate, a local chief now says the widely reported facts about Monday's incident are not accurate. Union City Fire Department Chief Kelly Edmison says the South Fulton Fire Department was never on the scene of the house fire. Edmison tells the woman whose home was burning saw a fire engine from Kentucky which did not have the authority to act.

According to the version of events supplied a short time ago by Chief Edmison, unlike last year's incident, South Fulton firefighters were not on the scene refusing to douse the flames. It is unclear why South Fulton's mayor or fire chief previously did not, or were unable to, make this clear to the local news media.

Still, even in this latest version of events, firefighters did respond to the call and came within two blocks of the burning home. Following the South Fulton policy, firefighters did not attempt to put the fire out. As we posted earlier today, this is something Chief Edmison and other municipal chiefs in Obion County are trying to change. Below, Chief Edmison explains the details, as he knows them, from Monday's incident and provides more background about the battle over the subscription fire service:

South Fulton NEVER made it to the scene of the fire!  I just talked with Chief Wilds moments ago.  The call came in as a city run.  Fulton, KY shares the state line with South Fulton Fire Department.  they have Auto-Aid between the two of them for CITY calls.  The call was dispatched to South Fulton as though it were a city run.  They were told fire on "Cavitt."  Cavitt St. is in the city. Cavitt Lane, is in the county.  SFFD responded to Cavitt St.  Fulton, KY Fire Department caught glimpse of a South Fulton Police car heading towards E. Cavitt.  They in turn followed.  SFFD after getting to Cavitt St, they could see the fire (fully involved) and realized the call was in the county, they also knew those trailers were not covered under the policy.  They radioed Fulton to stand down as it was a county non covered property.  Fulton's truck stopped two blocks short of the actual fire.  It was their truck that was seen by witness's NOT South Fulton.  I also talked with the Fulton Chief.  It bothered them that they couldn't help but them being from out of state and only having authority by South Fulton could not respond after SFFD standing them down. Both departments then returned to quarters.  NO one went on scene regardless what any area news media claimed or even what the local paper reported.

Now, as I have said, I don't like the subscription program.  However Union City has operated this way since the early 60's.  Currently with a 73% participation in our district. It was the hopes of the 8 city fire chiefs (because there "ain't no COUNTY fire department) that the county commission could be convince to go with a fire tax and contract services from the 8 city departments.  They didn't want to pass one and apparently the county residents have choose to remain quiet and not force the issue. The ONLY reason I and the other departments have agreed to go along with the county wide subscription at this time is that it is providing funding for 5 other departments now that have been getting nothing in the past except revenues from their respective cities.  Our hopes are that with a 70% collection county wide the commission would favor a tax.  Politics now comes into play.  We are told that by state law, a county fire tax would place too high of a fee on the farmers.  Obion county is mostly agriculture based.  Many of the county commissioners are farmers.  I'll not say more.

Another note, in fairness to the county, the not responding to non-subscribers is NOT a county policy.  That is left up to each city to make that decision. They are only collecting the money for the individual departments.

Until the county residents rise up and demand a county fire tax, I don't see the problem being solved.  With 70% county wide supporting the subscription program, you would think they would support a tax which reduces that fee.

Bottom line, the cities are not going to provide fire protection to the county for nothing.  We as chiefs have to carry out the policies of our individual governments or we can choose to "go elsewhere."  I currently am committed to protecting the City of Union City taxpayers AND the 73% of the county customers in our district.
As was stated above, all cities pulling back to their city limits would probably force the issue.  But I believe in my case, our "city fathers" aren't quite willing to do that to the 73% who have supported us for so many years.

We'll get through this; we chief's haven't given up.  The fires remain hot; but sometimes the politics burns hotter.

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