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Paying fire dues prevents problems

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fire prevention practices include maintaining membership in local rural fire associations. Paul Wimsatt, vice president of the Monett Rural Fire Association, said incidents in other parts of the country show the importance of partnering with local firefighters.

For many decades the Monett Rural Fire Association has sustained its policy of only fighting fires of members. Association officials throughout the period have maintained the practice is essential to sustaining a rural department that has no tax support. Larry Long is the current association president.

People not living in towns or tax-supported fire districts do not automatically have fire protection. Many area sstill rely on rural fire associations run by volunteers and funded by memberships.

Membership dues allow service for a flat fee to all property owners. A property tax the rate of payment based on land values. While memberships are voluntary, property tax payments are not. Monett Rural Fire Association leaders have worked to maintain the least expensive option for its service area.

The issue of paying dues for fire protection came up on Sept. 29 in Obion County, Tenn., where the Gene Cranick family lost their home and their pets in a fire. Cranick had forgotten to pay the $75 in dues for rural service with the nearby city of South Fulton.

"The fire department has been getting the same criticism we got in 2006," Wimsatt said, referring to a local fire that was not fought due to lack of membership.

"The policy isn't unique to Monett Rural. People can avoid problems by joining Monett Rural and renewing their annual memberships in December," Wimsatt said.

Memberships can be paid at Huffmaster Insurance, located at 811 Seventh St. in Monett. For more information, call 235-3555.

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