Fire Department Charges Family $20,000 After Their Home Burns Down

    November 10, 2013

A family in Surprise, Arizona certainly got the shock of their life after their home burned down and they received a bill for almost $20,000. Even though their home was a total loss, they are still expected to pay $19,825 to a private fire department the family says showed up after the fire was put out. The family didn’t have a subscription for fire coverage from the private fire department, something they say they were never even offered.

Justin and Kasia Purcell’s home caught on fire in August while they were away from the home preparing for the birth of their child. After their neighbor called to let them know their home was burning, they drove back to their house as the fire was being put out. “Everything was completely gone,” said Purcell.

A couple weeks later, the family was delivered a real punch in the stomach after they got the bill for almost $20,000. The itemized bill the private Rural Metro Fire Department sent the family included charges of $1,500 for each of the two fire trucks that showed up. The family was also charged $150 per hour for each of the six firefighters on the scene, a figure Purcell finds awfully high.

“They weren’t even the first responders,” Purcell said. “We arrived 45 minutes after the fire started, and it was pretty much extinguished by Surprise. Rural Metro showed up after we were already there. They basically did a mop-up–saturated the hotspots with water. They are milking it. I was there the whole night, and there was probably two of their men actually doing any work. The other ones were standing around bulls***ting.”

The Purcell family lives in an unincorporated area that doesn’t have fire coverage. Residents in the area pay a fire district assistance tax, but it only covers volunteer fire departments. The private fire department says that the Purcells could have avoided their five-figure bill had they subscribed to their coverage. Their service is around $300 per year. Colin Williams, public information officer for Rural Metro, says that the bill covered the Surprise firefighters that showed up as well.

“In this case, firefighters responded, they did receive mutual aid from other departments…once fire is knocked down and brought under control, Rural Metro units provide the overhaul and do essentially the mop up, if you will–that takes a significant amount of time and resources,” Williams said.

Kasia Purcell says they would have paid the $300 for fire coverage had they known about it. “We would have paid it in a heartbeat,” she said. “We never received a letter from them.” The Purcells’ neighbors say they hadn’t been offered coverage from Rural Metro, either, until after the Purcell home burned down.

“Coincidentally, we all received a bill from Rural Metro fire informing us we have no fire coverage in our area, so they highly suggested we finally begin paying some fire coverage that we didn’t currently have,” said neighbor Kelly Miller.

So far, it looks like the Purcell family will be stuck with the bill, which they say they can’t afford.

Do you think they should be responsible for the $20,000 or do you think this is a scam since they say they were never offered coverage? Add your comments below.

[Image via YouTube]