Rutherford County man questions city, county fire coverage after flames damage home

(Photo: WKRN)

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Rutherford County home was destroyed by fire, and the homeowner is wondering why the city fire department didn’t respond since it was closer.

The man’s call to 911 was routed to the wrong dispatch center, and his cell phone was to blame.

When there is an emergency, time is of essence.

“It’s gut wrenching,” said Stephen King. “It hurts. I opened the garage and there was a flame on top of my engine.”

His first thought was to grab the fire extinguisher.

“I heard a pop coming from my truck and that scared me, so I backed out,” King said.

King lives on Sharondale Drive in Rutherford County, which is like a small island surrounded by the city of Murfreesboro.

Last Friday, he dialed 911 from his cell phone to report the fire but was connected to a city dispatcher who transferred him to a county dispatcher.

Stephen King (Photo: WKRN)
Stephen King (Photo: WKRN)

He lives a block away from the city limits.

“There are two fire departments closer than the county fire department,” King said. “They could have been here in five minutes if they had my home wouldn’t be a totally loss.”

Rutherford County Fire and Rescue crews arrived within 13 minutes 7 seconds, but the fire quickly spread.

King told News 2 public safety shouldn’t be divided by city-county borders.

“I don’t understand why we are county-city divided. That’s what bothers me so much and I hope that doesn’t happen to anybody else here in the county,” he explained.

Rutherford County Emergency Communications District officials told News 2 the reason the call was sent to city dispatchers is because it pinged the nearest cell phone tower, which is in the city.

“If you are in an area highly populated by a different jurisdiction, odds are any cell call that you place from that area you place from that area will be placed to the different jurisdiction,” assistant director Cassie Lowery said.

Landlines or home phones are much more reliable, according to Lowery.

“Calling routing for landline calls to 911 are routed off the service address off the phone,” Lowery said. “There is where we have a guide that contains a list of the street and address ranges.”

 (Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

The city of Murfreesboro attempted to annex this area, which they would have had to provide police, fire, and other city services, but residents around here wanted no part of it.

“We shouldn’t have to be annexed into the city to get better fire protection,” King said. “That should be inclusive for county and city in my opinion.”

“People, of course, don’t want to make more taxes, but a lot of revenue from the city and the ability to provide services is provided on that tax revenue that comes in,” said Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue (MFRD) Chief Mark Foulks.

MFRD had a nearby crew flushing a fire hydrant that offered to help battle the fire despite the home being in Rutherford County.

Murfreesboro and Rutherford County have a mutual aid agreement to help each other, but they usually are request or ask for permission to help.

Emergency Communications officials said wireless calls being sent to the wrong dispatchers is a problem nationwide, and it won’t be corrected until cell phone providers upgrade their networks, which would allow the system to deliver the voice call in a timely fashion to the correct 911 Center.

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