Making a bad situation worse. Obion County, TN wants firefighters to be on the hook if county makes mistake in the 'pay for spray' subscription list.

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Click here & scroll down for our previous coverage of the subscription fire service in South Fulton & Obion County

Just when it looked like there was progress in Obion County, Tennessee there appears to be a major step backward, once again making firefighters the responsible party for bad policy. Obion County, as many of you know, does not have its own fire protection but relies on municipal departments that respond into the county to reported fires at the homes of residents who have paid a $75 subscription fee or on all fires where there is a report of someone trapped.

It was one of those municipal departments , South Fulton, that twice made international news when firefighters did not extinguish the burning homes of two non-subscribers in a 13-month period. After really bad publicity from both cases, that even brought death threats to firefighters, South Fulton changed its policy in March (see video below). The firefighters will now respond to all reported fires in the portion of Obion County it handles and bill non-subscribers $3500 for the response. Not a perfect system, but a step in the direction of taking firefighters out of the middle and not putting them in a position of sitting and watching a home burn.

But Obion County, which has long ignored the local fire chiefs and their plea to institute some sort of fire tax, has now made a change in its agreements with the municipal departments. It addresses two points that and our readers brought up when we first told you about this issue in October 2010. Essentially, the latest issue is about the reliability of the information flow. How do you know for sure if someone is trapped or not if you don’t respond and how reliable is the list of subscribers administered by Obion County?

We have asked on numerous occaisions of those who have disagreed with our position which government agency they trust to be 100 percent accurate in its paperwork and data when you have to make a respond or don’t repond decision? Obion County has the solution in its new agreement. They want firefighters to be on the hook if the information is wrong.


Regardless of whether the homeowner paid the fee, firefighters will respond if someone’s trapped inside. The fear is, what if someone’s inside, no one knows and that person dies?

Another common concern is the database of subscribers. What if by mistake someone who paid the fee is left out and firefighters let the home burn?

Folks in Obion county said both scenarios are very real and very scary.

(Town of Obion Chief Jamie) Evans said he’s required to check the computer database before responding to a county fire. While he’s not responsible for putting names in the database, he fears under the new county contract, he would be responsible if someone’s left out.

“I can’t edit it,” Evans said. “I can’t do anything but access and look at it, so I really don’t think it should be my responsibility to take the blame.”

According to WPSD-TV, Obion County officials had told the chiefs that if there is a time more than 70 percent of county residents became fire protection subscribers they would call for a special election to determine if there should be a fire tax. Chief Evans says it has reached that point. No word yet on the election.

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