Volunteer Firefighters Watch As House Burns To Ground
Feb. 18, 1985
SALEM, Ark. (AP) _ Volunteer firefighters refused to fight a fire that destroyed Anthony Brazil's $150,000 house and killed the family dog because they said he had not paid $20 in annual fees, Brazil said.
''They just sat there and watched it burn. I couldn't do that if I was a fireman,'' Brazil, 37, said Sunday after his family's two-story house burned. ''There wasn't anything left. It burned to the ground. We don't have anything other than the clothes on our backs and our cars.''
''We've had a policy for a number of years. If you're not a member, we don't fight the fire,'' said Ronnie Courtney, chief of the volunteer fire department in this town about 20 miles southwest of Little Rock.
''I thought I paid it. They said I didn't,'' Brazil said. Brazil said he paid the fees the past two years, but didn't remember having received a past- due notice. Courtney said the department sends three past-due notices.
The fire association charges $250 to put out a fire, Courtney said, but the fire victim must be a member who has paid dues.
Brazil and his wife, Jeannie, were at church when Brazil's brother Floyd discovered the blaze Sunday morning. Courtney said flames were coming out of windows when firefighters arrived in three trucks, but that the outside of the house had suffered only minor damage.
Firefighters stayed near the house to make sure the fire didn't spread, Courtney said.
Neighbors offered to pay the $20 and the additional $250 if the department would fight the fire, Brazil said, but the firefighters refused.
''The fire department was just standing around. As a matter of fact, they were out hosing their new fire truck down in the street to keep it clean,'' said Barney Taylor, a member of the church the Brazils attend.
Jim Wilbanks, another church member, said he had lodged a complaint. Wilbanks said Courtney ''said it was a hard thing but he had to do it because they hadn't paid their dues.'' Wilbanks said he told the fire chief anyone could overlook paying their dues.
Church members gave 7-year-old Alison Brazil, the younger of Brazil's two daughters, a puppy Sunday afternoon.
''I'm kind of bitter at the fire department,'' Brazil said, estimating his losses at $150,000. ''I know they have a job to do, but they could have had some human compassion.''