WTOC Investigates: Applying for and getting Fire Fee discounts

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The deadline is fast approaching to save some money on your Savannah Fire fee.

Discount applications are due June 1 and some of you may be buying things like carbon monoxide monitors or fire extinguishers to help save some money. But are they a benefit if you don't know how to use them?

The city billing starts in September, but there are things you can do right now - like buying and learning to use a fire extinguisher - to make your home safer and save some money.

The City of Savannah keeping fire trucks rolling by rolling out a new fire fee. With many homeowners still worried about finding the money to pay for it.

"I'm paying $250. Is this $250 a year? Every year? They done lost their mind," said Shirley Price, a Savannah homeowner.

The city's offering discounts to help cut the cost.

"Any time you save money, that's important, especially when you're retired, so you need all the savings you can get," said Chester Brown, a Savannah homeowner.

It's hosting sessions, like one at the Moses Jackson Golden Age Center, to help people like Chester Brown understand what he already has in his home to qualify for a discount.

"Fire detector, fire extinguisher, evacuation system, you know, how to get in and out of the house and where to meet. Those things," Brown said.

But what if you don't have an extinguisher? Do you know what kind you should buy? Or if you do have one, would you know how to use it if you had a fire?

"Knowing the kind of fire that you're actually trying to extinguish is very important. You don't want to use the wrong extinguisher because you could get yourself hurt," said Cpt. Michael Fort, with the Pooler Fire Department.

Savannah Fire says it doesn't do fire extinguisher demonstrations, so we asked the Cpt. Fort to help us teach you what to look for.

"With any type of fire extinguisher and any type of fire, you want to make sure you have the right extinguisher. You ABC extinguisher is fine for the house. You want to use the PASS method, which is pull, aim, squeeze and sweep, but you also want to make sure you're at the right distance, 8-10 feet away from the fire is a safe area," Cpt. Fort said. "And, also, you want to make sure you have a way out of your house."

He says he keeps two extinguishers at home. A class "K" for kitchen fires and an ABC for anything else-and storing them in the right place may be as important as having them. That location is so important because if your stove is on fire, you don't want your extinguisher next to the stove because then you can't get to it.

"That's right. Sometimes, a lot of people put it underneath the kitchen cabinet or in the kitchen cabinet underneath the sink, and you've got to pass the stove to get to it. So that's probably not a good place for it because, like I said, you want to try to keep a good distance away from the fire, and you want to have a way out yourself. Find a location that's close to your way out the door," Cpt. Fort said.

Brown's used a fire extinguisher and says he's grateful there's a way to save money.

"Everyone who's owning a home should take advantage of all the things that the city of Savannah offers to you," Brown said.

Others, like Stella Bucey, say paying even a discounted fee is practically impossible.

"That means something has to go, yes it does. Something [does] have to go. So, what is it going to be? I can't lessen my medication. I have to take it, so what am I going to do," Bucey said.

The city has set aside $400,000 for a hardship fund to completely cover the fee for some. But to get that waiver, you must apply for the discount program by June 1.

If you have a fire extinguisher, you need to remember to replace it regularly. If you use it, you need to buy a new one.

If it's been in your house for several years, check the date.

Cpt. Fort says you should replace it every five to 15 years. He gets a new one every 10.

If you need help filling out an application or have questions about how to get a discount, the city's next help session is Tuesday, May 8 from 9 a.m. - noon at the Mary Flournoy Golden Age Center.

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