Firefighter speaks out against pay for spray
OBION COUNTY, Tenn. — A mobile home goes up in flames in a rural area. By all indications, it was an accident.
The fire destroys virtually all of a local couple's belongings but no one is hurt. No pets are lost.
Yet the idea that firefighters would stand by as a home burns over a $75 fire subscription fee is causing international outrage.
The proof is in the emails we've received here at Local 6 and even in the voicemails at fire stations in Obion, departments that had nothing to do with this fire.
In fact, it's gotten so bad, an Obion County Firefighter said something needs to change.
Most firefighters, paid and volunteer, fear if they speak out against their department or the county, then they'll be fired.
But a volunteer of 30 years feels like he's speaking for all Obion County firefighters when he says it's time to end pay for spray.
His department wasn't even involved in Monday's South Fulton fire but they, too, are feeling the heat.
"They've threatened to burn the fire station. They've threatened to do bodily harm," volunteer firefighter Randy Evans said. "What have we done?"
Thanks to the nationwide media blitz centered around Monday's fire, folks from across the country are calling them, confusing Obion County with the city of Obion.
"I think people need to know it's not Obion," he said. "It's not the town or city of Obion. It's the county."
Evans said countless threats on the department's Facebook page led to the page's removal altogether. The phone calls are just as bad.
"We've had everything from "I'm going to shoot every firefighter to we're going to burn station to we're not American," Evans said.
But as nasty as these confused callers can be, deep down, this firefighter shares their concerns, since his own department has the same pay for spray policy.
"Anyone that answers a fire call, it's not a good feeling. What do you say?"
Evans said in addition to a countywide public relations nightmare, pay for spray makes it tough to recruit new, young firefighters. He fears if something doesn't change, you'll see fewer new firefighters and more empty lockers.
He, like many others, said he's calling on the county to correct course and cancel this controversial policy.
"We plead with the county court to turn our hands loose, work with us, give us the opportunity to serve Obion County," Evans said.
It's just sheer luck that Obion Fire Department has never had to turn down a call. But it could happen someday. We asked Evans what he would do if they got a call from someone who hadn't paid the fee. He said he didn't want to discuss that.
Evans said they should let the voters decide. He would like to raise county taxes just a little and supplement the existing departments, which would agree to respond to all fires in the nearby county, doing away with pay for spray once and for all.
Evans said in the last year 70 percent of his department's fires occurred in the rural area, while only a small portion of their funding comes from the rural subscriptions.