Rural fire fee not paid; firefighters let home burn


Sep 13, 2005
Fee not paid; firefighters let home burn
Robert Franklin, Star Tribune
October 6, 2005 FIRE1006

Carl Berg failed to pay a $25 annual fee for rural fire protection and, as a result, firefighters let his house burn to the ground last month near International Falls, Minn.

Along with his daughter and a grandson, Berg escaped the fire, grabbing two rifles and a camcorder as he went.

"I lost everything [else]," he said. "Stand and watch it burn was all I could do. ... They should have put the thing out, but they didn't."

Some area residents are expressing outrage about a system that can let that happen -- and about a dispute involving the International Falls Fire Department, Koochiching County and the Rural Fire Protection Association, which collects annual fees and pays the city for each fire it fights outside city limits.

"You either buy it or you don't have it," said Don Billig, the association's secretary.

International Falls, Minn."You buy the fire protection up here, and you have it," Billig said.

However, Fire Chief Jerry Jensen said, "It's not the way we're trained. It's just wrong. ... My job is to put out fires, not to watch them burn, [and] I don't want this to happen again."

But it has happened before, and it might again because for two years the city, county and the fire association have been unable to agree on costs of replacing the voluntary fee with a property tax levy that would fund fire protection for everyone.

The Fire Department poured enough water on Berg's structure -- a mobile home and enclosed porch -- to put the fire out temporarily and make sure everyone was safe.

But when firefighters were called back later, they let the rekindled blaze destroy the building's remains.

Now, in the wake of the Sept. 15 fire, the city says it will cancel all rural fire protection next April unless an agreement is reached.

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This is straight up ridiculous. If the man pays property tax, fire protection should be included with that. It's just retarded beaureacracy to make it a seperate fee, and then to actually enforce it by letting a home burn.


Sep 13, 2005
Damn that sucks, I'm wondering why the man didn't just pay the $25 though. Horrible that its a separate fee, but I guess the rules are the rules even if they are lame :suspiciou . I hope that he had some kind of insurance, though it doesn't seem like it since he is already considering it a loss:sad: