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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Recommendations for Small Municipal Fire Departments

Reference Number: MTAS-417
Reviewed Date: 08/25/2023

Small municipal fire departments using volunteers are important to Tennessee cities. According to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, there are 692 recognized fire departments in Tennessee (August 2023). Most of them are small fire departments struggling with water supply issues. Many small-city fire departments lack an adequate supply of water and the necessary funding to provide for needed supplies, equipment, and facilities. Improving a city’s fire service rating can lead to homeowner insurance savings, and it can provide a mechanism to fund needed improvements in the fire service. Residential sprinkler systems can reduce the loss of life and property. Growth issues affecting a city’s ability to provide an adequate level of fire service to its community need to be adequately addressed.

MTAS recommends that cities look for innovative methods to improve the water supply required for fire service such as:

  • Develop and participate in model programs that pay for fire service improvements from reduced fire insurance rates, similar to the Texas model program outlined herein;
  • Seek changes in federal laws that prevent a city from taking over a utility inside the city where the utility has outstanding bond obligations to allow cities to pay off the bonds and acquire the utility;
  • Support changes in the state’s growth laws requiring utility districts operating within a city, or its urban growth area, to comply with the city’s subdivision regulations. This would give cities the ability to provide needed water for fire service; and
  • Include utilities in the county/city 20-year growth plan.