Homeowners Receive $14,000 Bill From Fire Department

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It was a house Ralph and Angela Piper planned for 10 years and one Ralph spent three years building. This summer, the smoke plume caused by a lightning strike on their roof was visible cross BCS.

"It burned for four hours last night. They got water on it pretty quick, but it just wasn't enough," said Ralph Piper.

The July fire ruined the home they'd lived in only two-and-a-half years. The Pipers spent the last six months picking up the pieces, but said they were shocked when they received a bill from the Brazos County Precinct 3 Volunteer Fire Department.

"It's $14,650. We were billed per minute, per truck," said Angela Piper.

It was a bill the Pipers thought couldn't be real.

"We called our agent the following day. He said he'd never heard about it and suggested that we call our fire department to make sure it wasn't a scam," said Angela.

It wasn't, said Precinct 3 Chief Gerald Burnett.

"If you have insurance and you've suffered a loss that we respond to, we submit that run report to Revenue Rescue," said Burnett.

In this case, the company valued the response at nearly $15,000. It's a bill that is perfectly legal, according to state law, and a charge the department could even collect by going to court, which Precinct 3 has never done.

Still, it's a reality the Pipers think other home owners should know about.

"You grow up believing that as a tax paying law abiding citizen of the county you're entitled to fire, police, road and bridges," said Angela.

"The tax money that folks spend is intended to have equipment available all the time ready to go. Any use of that equipment ultimately, really is an added expense," said Burnett.

An expense the Pipers wish they'd known about, so they could have budgeted for it.

"You start to wonder, at what point am I going to get a bill from the police department?" said Angela.

Burnett said usually the bills go directly to the insurance company and homeowners never see them. In this case, the Pipers said their insurance didn't cover firefighter services.

Burnett said usually Revenue Rescue will work with the people who are billed.