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Residents in uproar over fee-based fire service

The department's chief says the move is necessary because of financial hardships

By FireRescue1 Staff

CLINTON, S.C. — A SC volunteer fire department's move to transition to a fee-based operation has prompted an outcry from residents.

Some civilians have gotten so angry that they've launched personal attacks on the department's chief, demanding he be fired, according to Knox News.

"I am surprised at the personal attacks on me. It's very disheartening," Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeff Bagwell said.

The 9,000 residents that occupy about 5,000 homes in the department's service area were notified in October that the fire service would transition into a subscription-based program starting in 2013.

Chief Bagwell estimates that the annual subscription for most homes would be between $100 and $250. Non-enrolled members would be charged $1,900 for the first hour of response to a structure fire and $150 for medical calls.

Bagwell told Knox News that the member service was necessary because of a "financial crisis," claiming that the department needs quadruple its $100,000 annual budget to operate.

Some residents have voiced concerns that their insurance companies would be notified if they opted out of the service, while Chief Bagwell said it's not true and that most companies would find out on their own anyways.

Chief Bagwell is to appear at a county commissioners' public hearing to discuss the widely unpopular motion.

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Lori Pepper Lori Pepper Wednesday, November 28, 2012 3:01:20 PM When volunteer fire departments are criticized for initiating any action which will keep an entirely community run emergency service functioning due to lack of funding from a declining economy and a minimal rise in sales or property taxes it is come to be expected, but the community's residents complain without truly thinking about the reasons why it is needed now more than ever. Volunteer personnel do not only protect your homes in the middle of the night and come to rescue you when you have fallen or fell ill, but they also have other paid jobs or careers which require hours of service in order to put the dinner on their tables and take care of their own families. They go to their jobs after being up all night attempting to save lives, preserve your property, and do not get compensated for it. With the rising cost of supplies, apparatus, fuel, and needed gear, how can you not expect them to need more funding over and above government grants and tax money? The alternatives to not having these needs met is a fire service which is no longer functional and the residents would then have to rely upon a neighboring department for service in which the outcomes of many emergencies could become catastrophic. I am sure that everyone reading this has known at least one person who has been helped in some way by a volunteer who went over and beyond their expectation of service.
Kenneth Tull Sr. Kenneth Tull Sr. Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:51:51 PM WOW! only $150 for a medical call? We charge $550 plus $12.50 per mile one way.
Keith Wesolek Keith Wesolek Wednesday, November 28, 2012 8:33:32 PM Nicely Said ........
Steve Harlan Steve Harlan Thursday, November 29, 2012 7:27:09 AM Thank u Lori-- VFD's in America r the backbone of Fire/EMS systems. we do it for nothing- except to reach out to our communities and help--all the while. having to fight for each girl. of fuel and or equipment-- and many times having to fight our own. people to make our departments what they need to be to service the same people who are. attacking us-- I came from a Professional Department-- I had days off-- In the Vol. world there r no days off-- Our dept. has no tax base, no ESD, everything we have was donated, or by grant. Dedicated men and women work very hard at fundraisers to make our department successful. I am very proud to the Fire Chief of Oakridge VFD, Colorado county, Texas and I would put my people up against any firefighter anywhere! No, not looking for a raise--nobody gets paid--we do what we do for our neighbors and friends.
Garry Claudette Harlan Garry Claudette Harlan Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:18:19 AM Really like to see this, I am a volunteer firefighter in Scotland, Tx that I am glad to be a part of .In my case our community really supports us and appreciate all the work that we do! All I have to say is drought and the community knows how hard we work to save thier property,Land and animals.
Alison Harlan Goodwin Alison Harlan Goodwin Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:23:17 AM Proud of selfless givers! Thank you!
Robert Ceder Kessenich Robert Ceder Kessenich Friday, November 30, 2012 1:51:10 PM We charge $500 per call at our department. WI
Lori Pepper Lori Pepper Friday, November 30, 2012 2:30:47 PM @Steve Harlan. I did forget to put that on my list of actions which must be done to get the funding we do receive from grants and the like. Someone has to search and fill out countless forms to help pay for equipment, supplies, and stretch the ever dwindling budget due to the most recent and long-lasting economic crises. One thing is certain, everyone is affected when an establishment which provides these kinds of services goes out of business, or cannot function at what it once was.
Lori Pepper Lori Pepper Friday, November 30, 2012 2:31:57 PM Do you have a subscription available or is it only on a per call emergency basis?
Jeremy Douglas Jeremy Douglas Friday, November 30, 2012 5:01:19 PM I brought the issue to the table at one meeting and got shot down. But what many homeowners don't realize is that there is money alloted in 99% of home owners plans that are for fire suppression, and the insurances don't pay unless asked. When paying your taxes that % going to your local dept. is worded as fire readiness in many legislatures. A department in our area has been sending bills to insurance companies direct, requesting ( not demanding) funds. Now 9 times out of 10 the agent shows on scene and cuts a check right there when it's wrapped. I don't know about you but that $300-600 could come in handy 12-15 calls a year.
Robert Ceder Kessenich Robert Ceder Kessenich Friday, November 30, 2012 7:19:05 PM We charge $500/fire or car crash, CO alarms are under discussion, we do our lift assists in our city at no charge. The charges started at $250 approx. 12 years ago. With some dissagreement along the way by the public has not been a huge deal for most. Most insurance takes care of the cost. Change is not easy but times are changing.
Dan Bennis Dan Bennis Saturday, December 01, 2012 4:29:35 PM my only concern is if a property owner doesn't pay, would the FD still fight to save life and property?

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