No Fees, No Service: Missouri Department Doesn't Respond to Blaze

A rural Henry County homeowner watched his house burn to the ground, and he's upset because fire crews wouldn't help him, KMBC's Martin Augustine reported.

The fire woke homeowner Thomas Sisk before dawn Thursday morning.

"The house was full of smoke. When I busted the window out, it just blasted smoke right at me," Sisk said.

The blaze destroyed his phone, so he couldn't call for help. He went to a neighbor's, but nobody was home. So Sisk got into his car and drove 12 miles to Casey's convenience store on the edge of Clinton to call 911.

But there was a problem. Sisk learned that he had not paid a rural fire service fee, so no truck was coming. Another small fire department wouldn't roll its trucks, either, because his home was beyond its operating area.

By the time a third fire department said it could help, it was too late. The fire had destroyed everything but the foundation and the chimney.

"I can't believe the old chimney ain't fallen," Sisk said. "Somebody's asking me earlier, they was like, 'So, how do you feel?' I said, 'Well, I feel like I got burned down.' I don't know -- I don't know what I feel," he said.

He said what hurts most is that the mementos of his children were destroyed.

"I just kept thinking about my kids' stuff in the house, all their baby pictures," Sisk said.

Thomas Sisk

He said he's shocked that firefighters wouldn't help him.

"I couldn't believe it. I don't know, it's unreal," Sisk said.

Augustine reported that there is no wide, tax-based fire protection system for rural Henry County because voters have never approved one. The only protection currently there covers dues-paying members of a fire protection association.

There is no provision in its by-laws allowing the fire protection association to respond to a fire and then bill someone later who is not a member, unless someone's life is threatened.

Sisk said he's staying with family for now.