Steve Tupper’s house burned to the ground Wednesday night in rural Ada County south of Kuna-Mora Road and because he lived outside any fire protection district, no fire trucks responded.
KTVB-TV had Tupper on camera and he felt “someone” should have responded.
Tupper’s tragedy is a common tale and a risk accepted by everyone who chooses to live in unprotected areas. No fire service is offered in the area, so he pays no taxes for service.
Ada County has no county-wide fire protection and the reason is that in remote sparsely populated areas it is too late to do anything by the time firefighters can respond. The cities aim for a 3-5 minute response and some areas would require a 15-30 minute response.
Also, there is no water system for hydrants and not enough structures to provide a tax base for closer service. For example: if it costs $500,000 a year to run a station, with a couple of engines, staffed with volunteers and there are only 5 houses in the area, they each would have to pay $100,000 a year in fire protection taxes. Cheaper to take the risk.
The Emergency Medical Service is a county wide agency and ambulances respond. everywhere. Same is true for the sheriff.
Boise has contracts authorized by the City Council to provide “hazardous material” responses on the highways outside the city in exchange for Federal funding. Same is true for the bomb squad which gets Homeland Defense funds, equipment, and training.
As budgets get tight and more people live outside cities, there is a tendency for cities to simply “protect their own” and not leave their boundaries. Fire protection is like an insurance policy. You can’t just pay the premium only when you have a loss. EVERYONE has to pay and hope to never need the service.
Rural residents don’t have sewers, water, parks, trash collection, street lights, neighbors or HIGH TAXES. Fire department did the right thing in this case and if Tupper lived in the city he may still have a house.
Insurance in unprotected areas is high because THEY don’t like to take the risk.
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