As a member-driven fire protection service, the Scotland County Fire Corporation depends on annual dues to remain viable, requiring a strict policy of responding only to member emergencies.

This policy mandates that when emergencies situations are called in, the dispatch services, prior to calling for a fire department response, must first check the membership log to verify the property belongs to the fire corporation.

Finding out the property in need of service is not a member, creates one of the worst feelings possible for the fire corporation, knowing they could have helped if only the property owner had been a member. Recently that disappointment was surpassed by a communication issue that ultimately resulted in a member’s barn burning down as the firemen were unable to respond.

“We had a situation where a renter called in to report a fire,” said corporation board president Freddie Henderson. “The property owner maintains a membership, but the emergency call did not provide enough information to track that all down.”

Henderson stressed the need for better communication when reporting fires and other emergencies, noting the dispatchers only have the information provided by the caller to go on.

The fire corporation is taking this opportunity to remind property owners to verify their membership dues and to ensure that renters are aware of the situation and know to report that the fire membership is under the property owner’s name.

With the recent implementation of 911 addressing by the county, some of these problems may be rectified as callers will be able to report a physical address instead of simply offering a name and a few general directions.

Rural property owners are asked to pay $30 annual dues to the corporation in exchange for fire protection services. The revenues fund the day-to-day operating expenses of the volunteer fire department such as fuel and fire truck maintenance, as well as helping to buy new equipment and protective gear.

The 2017 fire dues were payable January 1 and became delinquent as of March 1st. Unpaid dues at this time will require a membership renewal, which costs $50. The corporation, which was founded in 1961, serves more than 800 properties. Dues have been $30 since 2008.