The Big River Fire Department recently announced that fire tags, its crucial source of support, are now available on their website, bigriverfire.org. In addition to supporting the rural fire department, the tags also guard against great expense to rural homeowners and business owners if other departments must be called to help put out their fires.
Big River Fire Chief David Pratte explained fire tags act as a form of “insurance” that primarily benefits rural businesses and residents within the 175 square miles the department covers. He indicated the sale of the tags help to make sure the department’s basic operational expenses are covered, aiding in fundraising efforts to ensure the community’s fire safety.
Fire tags can generate anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars each year, which helps to go toward the department’s approximately $80,000 annual budget. A fire tag, priced at $80, offers residents protection from not just house fires but also brushfires and car fires. Commercial fire tags are $130.
With fire tags now available for purchase online through bigriverfire.org, the process has been streamlined, making it easier for residents to show their support to the fire department. A credit card can be used to buy the tags at the station, but the chief requests a call in advance to make sure someone is at the station to accept the card. To call in advance, the station number is 573-358-2737. Additionally, fire tags can also be purchased from Chuck and BJ’s gas station in Bonne Terre.
The tags were due for renewal on July 1, but the fire department has allowed a grace period of one month before any late fees are imposed.
“Fire tags are a lifeline for both rural residents and the department as a whole when it comes to dealing with fire-related emergencies. We do not get federal funding, other than the occasional grant that we have to apply for, and oftentimes, match,” said Pratt.
Pratt went on to explain the operation as a whole.
“We respond to about 1,000 calls a year, sometimes big fires, sometimes small ones. I’ve got a great crew of volunteers, 22 guys who take 2-3 calls a day, sometimes 5,” he explained.
When the fire department is forced to call in additional support from neighboring counties to combat a fire emergency, residents with a valid fire tag will not be billed for the services rendered.
“The value of a fire tag extends beyond just covering house fires. If there’s a car fire or any accident that requires assistance from multiple fire departments, fire tag holders are exempt from additional charges,” Pratt emphasized.
Grant Hutchings is a reporter for the Daily Journal.