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Rural Residents Could Pay More For Fire Service

(STILLWATER, Okla.) - The fire department is considering raising its rates for rural fire calls.

The department needs money to pay for equipment upgrades and maintenance, officials said.

The city commission is expected to vote this month on a plan to increase the department's fee to $300 per vehicle from a flat fee of $350. The $300 fee covers one to 10 hours of service.

Rural residents pay $12.50 per hour per firefighter. That fee will remain.

Stillwater Fire Chief Larry Mullikin said most departments that respond to rural calls charge per unit.

The department responds to calls from 15 miles west of the city limits and 10 miles east.

In fiscal year 1999-2000, the department responded to 1,054 incidents inside the city limits and 253 outside. Mullikin said that usually two vehicles respond, especially if conditions are dry or windy.

Residents can avoid some of the costs by joining the Rural Fire Association for $40 a year. They pay a flat fee of $175 per call and no manpower charges.

The proposed changes would not affect association members.

``It's really kind of like buying insurance,'' Mullikin said.
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