This is Fire Prevention Week. All over the area firefighters are having programs explaining to children and adults what can be done to prevent fires, why smoke detectors are important, how to escape from a burning house.

While firefighters are depicted as heroes this week as well they should be there comes a story out of Tennessee that is disturbing to some.

In Obion County, Tenn., which borders Kentucky, a fire department watched as a house burned because the family didn't pay an annual $75 fire protection fee. The home was outside the town limits and an ordinance in the municipality said firefighters can't fight fires outside the town unless that fee had been paid.

The fire department didn't even respond to the fire until neighbors of the burning house called and said their homes were in jeopardy. The firefighters poured water on the neighboring homes, but not where the family hadn't paid their dues.

While the action by the firefighters seems cold, there are some interesting points raised.

Municipalities are cutting budgets and often emergency services are listed among those cuts.

If you visit any fire department for open house, look at the apparatus. Some of the fire trucks cost close to a million dollars. Equipping them adds tens of thousands of dollars to the cost.

The local fire departments are run by volunteers. Many have annual fundraising drives which net only a percentage of responses from the population. Even events such as block parties and bingo don't get everyone to pay their fair share. It's the money raised through these things which buy the apparatus to protect you and me.

Americans are getting used to having things handed to them. Many people even read local newspapers free on the internet instead of buying them.

With fire protection, there's a big cost involved. While we can't condone what happened in Obion County, Tenn., we understand why the borough not the fire company had the $75 per household assessment.

If you don't pay your car insurance, you can't drive. If you don't pay your property taxes, you lose your home.

An annual fee of $75 per year for fire protection is cheap. It comes to only $6.25 per month. For someone unemployed or working a minimum wage job, every penny counts. But fire protection is something nobody can go without.

If you don't pay your fire insurance fees and your house burns down, you are in the same predicament as the family in Obion County which didn't pay their annual fire protection fee.

We're sure not a single local fire department would stand by and watch a house burn. Hopefully, though, you'll give some thoughts to the high cost of fire protection and pay your fair share through donations when fund raising occurs.

Fire protection isn't free.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]