M’boro studies fire tax

Published 9:33 am Thursday, September 30, 2010

MURFREESBORO — New turnout gear for the Murfreesboro Fire Department turned into talk of creating a fire tax district.

On Tuesday, the Murfreesboro Town Council agreed to purchase more than $36,812 worth of turnout gear for firefighters.

During his report to council members, Public Safety Director Darrell Rowe referred to a rule from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from 2008 that requires turnout gear that is 10 years or older be retired. He the department currently had 18 sets that are at least 10 years old.

“I am requesting that the town purchase all of the turnout gear for two basic reasons,” said Rowe. “The first and most important reason is because ethically and morally if a person is willing to risk their lives going into a (burning) house to pull you and your loved one out, then I think it’s the town’s responsibility to furnish that person with the proper equipment to do it.”

Rowe’s second reason was from a risk management and liability standpoint in that if the town is aware of the rule and it should rectify the matter.

Rowe noted in general, after a conversation with Public Works Director Gene Byrd, who is a retired fire chief, he felt the turnout gear needed to be replaced on a rotational basis as other town equipment.

Rowe referred the council MFD Firefighter Jeremy Brittenham, who was in attendance at the meeting, for questions about the turnout gear and NFPA.

Councilman Billy Theodorakis asked if NFPA was one of the entities the town and other fire departments followed consistently with rules and codes.

Brittenham described the NFPA as the blanket over the state or different government levels. He said though it says in NFPA books the codes and standards may not be requirements, the town could be held liable for those codes if they are not met.

According to the NFPA website, the organization is the world’s leading advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative source on public safety. NFPA develops, publishes, and disseminates more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks.

After further discussion, Theodorakis motioned for a budget amendment to purchase the 18 sets of turnout gear. Councilwoman Sarah Wallace offered a second and the motion passed without objection.

After the motion, Theodorakis asked his fellow council members to consider going to the county to create a fire tax district.

“We can give you the statistics right now, 90 percent of our calls are out of town,” he said. “We buy $250,000 fire trucks, we buy $40,000 worth of turnout gear—the people who live in Murfreesboro are going to pay for this basically.”

Town officials have previously discussed beginning the process of establishing a fire tax district.

At Tuesday’s meeting Town Attorney Buddy Jones said he would look into the matter.