Firefighters
Fire department subscription fees are just one part of a growing national trend. Photo Credit: Bmicomp/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

A Tennessee woman became a bit of a news item recently when firefighters allowed her home to burn because she hadn’t paid a subscription fee. Fees for emergency services are part of a growing national trend.

Family home burns because firefighter subscription fee was not paid

Part of the reason people pay taxes is that services need to be provided such as police, firefighters and so on. Unfortunately, taxes don’t always cover all of the bills, and extra fees are required. During the past few years, a growing number of municipal governments have been imposing emergency service fees on residents. The type of fee depends on the city or county that imposes it.

For instance, according to the Daily Mail, the city of South Fulton, Tenn., charges a $75 annual fee for residents of nearby rural areas who want access to the services of the South Fulton Fire Department. The fee became the subject of national news when Vicky Bell’s trailer went up in flames and firefighters stood by and did nothing because Bell hadn’t paid up.

Other cities considering similar fees

Another rural South Fulton resident, Gene Cranick, had forgotten about the fee but told firefighters he’d pay on the spot when his house caught fire. They refused; he and his wife lost their home and pets in the blaze.

Other cities are considering or have enacted fire service subscription fees. The city of Lyndon, Ky., according to NBC affiliate WAVE3, recently began charging a tiered fee for every fire response ranging from $300 to $500. The upper range of the fee includes structure fires or hazardous waste disposal, though the charge is typically billed to insurance companies.

According to WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., the city of Lake Mary, Fla., started considering such a fee recently in the face of declining tax revenues. The city of College Station, Texas, is currently considering a fire response fee for traffic accidents, where the at-fault driver is billed for firefighters having to go to the scene, according to the Bryant-College Station Eagle.

It’s a fee for all

Fees exist for almost every emergency service; even being able to call 911 can cost people. AT&T, according to the Tennessean, has been charging businesses in Tennessee $1.50 to $3 per phone line, per month for allowing them to call for help in an emergency. Various counties in Tennessee have been suing AT&T because they feel the company hasn’t collected enough.

According to MSN, there are also “crash response fees” or “crash taxes,” which means any non-resident of a municipality that’s been involved in an accident gets charged for emergency service personnel showing up at the scene, needed or not. As of 2008, such fees existed in 24 states.

Sources

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2070834/Firefighters-watch-couples-home-burn-ground-hadnt-paid-75-subscription-fee.html

WAVE3: http://www.wave3.com/story/16025563/lyndon-fire-department-stepping-up-efforts-to-collect-of-fees-for-fire-runs-and-some-accident-runs

WFTV: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/lake-mary-considers-new-fire-protection-fee/nFrb7/

The Eagle: http://www.theeagle.com/local/CSFD-studies-rescue-fees–6784125

The Tennessean: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20111125/NEWS01/311250058/AT-T-settles-Davidson-County-over-911-phone-fees?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

MSN: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/InsureYourCar/crash-taxes-add-hefty-fees-for-aid.aspx?page=1

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