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Friday, February 17, 2006

Fire crew sits idly by as resident faces blaze is the headline of a News-Leader story. That's right, the fire crew watched the guy try to put out a fire which burned down his garage and destroyed a vehicle because he didn't pay membership dues.

The Monett Rural Fire Department responded to the scene but did not fight the fire. Firefighters stood by as the fire burned itself out, watching in case the flames spread to neighboring properties owned by members.

"People need to realize you've got to become a member. If you live outside the city limits, you need to join one of the rural fire departments," Myers said.

Rueda offered to pay, Evenson said, but the Monett department does not have a policy for on-the-spot billing.

Randy Cole, assistant state fire marshal, said there was no state law requiring membership-supported fire districts to help nonmembers in any situation.

However, state law says those departments may perform services for a nonmember if they choose, and then charge the nonmember based on a set amount outlined in statute, Cole said.

It's unfortunate that Mr. Cole and the Monett Rural Fire Department require a law to enforce what common courtesy would call for.


Blogger meghann said...

this is unbelieveable! there's no policy for 'on-the-spot-billing' but it's alright for them decide whether or not to help a non-member. i could not be a member of the department that just shows up and then sits there while someone's home is destoryed by fire, while they have a way to prevent or help. hurray for hometowm usa.

7:05 PM  
Blogger HRH Julie, IQWM said...

It's nice to see people with brains who live near me. Thanks for giving my faith in my fellow Ozarks residents a boost. The kind of behavior shown by the Monett Rural FD only furthers to solidify stereotypes of Missourians as redneck morons. Thanks for not bein' one. :)

I am noticing a distinct lack of coverage in Springfield (i'm a bit south of you) - i mean, they're mentioning it, but somehow the idea that this might be a form of hatemongering hasn't seemed to sink in yet.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Duane Keys said...

I am also disturbed by the lack of media coverage. Where's the investigative reporting??? If I were in the press I'd be gathering the records of the Monnett rural fire department to see how many times they've enforced, or not enforced, this policy. I wonder if there would be any pattern...

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the Cassville Democrat, Feb. 15, 2006

Fire destroys Monett repair shop By Lindsay Reed

An auto maintenance and repair shop building, which was located outside of Monett on Farm Road 1090, was completely lost in a fire on Feb. 13.

Bibaldo Rueda, who owns the damaged building, was using a wood heater to warm the inside of the shop building. After a few minutes, Rueda noticed smoke behind the heater and found that some pieces of cardboard behind the heater had ignited.

Rueda clled the Monett Rural Fire Department at around 1 p.m. Firefighters arrived on scene 15 minutes later, but when the learned that Rueda was not a member of the fire department, they did not help extinguish the fire.

"The fire department was here but they didn't do anything," said Rueda. "They said I needed a membership."

"Our fire department is a member-based department," said Ronnie Myers, Monett Rural Fire Department fire chief. "If you are not a member, we can not help you fight a fire unless it is life threatening. Then we will go in and get the person out."

The Monett Rural Fire Department has between 1,100 and 1,200 members. According to the membership office, those numbers are low compared to the number of households within the fire department district.

Rueda said that he was unaware of the Monett Rural Fire Department's membership requirement.

"We put information about the membership requirement out in the paper," said Myers. "We sit at Wal-Mart two or three times a year. We sit on Main Street during October Fest."

Myers said he hopes when new people move into the Monett area neighbors will contact each other with information about the requirement.

"Several times I sai I would pay the fees or just send me a bill," said Rueda.

According to the Monett Rural Fire Department membership office, firefighters cannot accept membership fees after a fire has started.

With the help of friends and family, Rueda used buckets of water and garden hoses to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby mobile home. He was burned on the left side of his face while trying to contain the fire.

"The fire department stayed an hour just watching," said Rueda. "A lot of things could have been saved."

As Rueda fought the fire, a member of the Monett Rural Fire Department contacted the Barry County Sheriff's office.

"They called the sheriff because they thought we were mad, but we just wanted help," said Rueda.

Detective Robert Evenson, with the Barry County Sheriff's Department, and Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper John Luekenhoff were dispatched to the scene at around 1:25 p.m.

"When I got there the firefighters were in the street watching it burn," said Evenson. "They (Rueda's family and friends) are the only reason the trailer didn't burn up. They didn't get a bit of help from the Monett Rural Fire Department."

Evenson was surprised to learn that the Monett Rural Frie Department would not fight the fire because Rueda was not a member of the department.

"They said their by-laws would not let them help unless the property owner had a membership," said Evenson.

When Luekenhoff was leaving the property, Evenson heared a member of the Monett Rural Fire Department state that the department would help the officer under the same circumstances.

"He said, 'John, if this was your house, we would put it out whether you had a membership or not,'" said Evenson. "That comment was inappropriate."

Myers said he was unaware of the statement.

Rueda, who was uninsured lost around $30,000 worth of cars and equipment in the fire.

2:39 PM  

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