SOUTH FULTON, Tenn. (AP) — An Obion County couple lost everything on Monday when their home burned to the ground as firefighters watched.
Vicky Bell told WPSD-TV that she called 911 when her mobile home caught fire. Firefighters responded but did not put out the blaze because she does not subscribe to the local fire service .
"You could look out my mom's trailer and see the trucks sitting at a distance," Bell said.
Rural residents who want fire protection can get service from the nearby town of South Fulton, but they must pay a $75-a-year fee.
South Fulton Mayor David Crocker said that if the city's firefighters responded to people who didn't pay there would be no incentive for anyone to subscribe.
"There's no way to go to every fire and keep up the manpower, the equipment, and just the funding for the fire department (without the fee)," he said.
However, he said firefighters will help when people are in danger, regardless of whether they have paid.
Crocker said there are about 2,000 people in the subscription area in rural northwest Tennessee, and a majority of them pay the fee.
Bell said she was aware of the city fire department's "pay to spray" policy but did not subscribe because she and her boyfriend did not think they would ever be victims of a fire.
When another Obion County resident's home was left to burn last year, it became national news. In that case, firefighters went to the scene to keep flames from spreading to nearby property whose owners had paid the fee.
"After the last situation, I would hope that everybody would be well aware of the rural fire fees, this time," Crocker said.
Bell said she believes a space heater may have started the blaze.
The American Red Cross is paying for two nights in a hotel for the couple, but Bell said she is not sure where they will live after that. She said she did not have insurance.
"I'm just glad we're alive and everybody's OK," she said.