KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs says he will not support a fire tax in the county, in part because the the county already has a strong record of fire prevention.
The recommendation of a county-wide tax comes from a University of Tennessee study which recommended overhauls to the existing fire prevention system, including a centralized fire department.
Jacobs says Knox County has fewer injuries, fewer deaths, and less property damage from fires than other areas our size.
Jacobs made the claim in his weekly video update.
We asked Rural/Metro Chief Jerry Harnish about the data, along with Kevin Lauer, the consultant who put together the report, about the claims.
Claim: Fewer fire deaths
"Over the past five years," Jacobs said, "We have suffered a third fewer deaths per million than the rest of our region."
Rural/Metro says from 2012 to 2017, it recorded 7.84 deaths per million.
That's about the same as the 7.86 deaths per million for other communities of our size.
But when you look at areas our size in the south region, the number jumps to 11.74.
So Jacobs claim of a third fewer deaths is true.
Claim: Fewer fire injuries
"Our injuries per million due to fire are less than half of other comparable communities," Jacobs said.
Rural/Metro says that's true, too.
We average 23.1 injuries per million. Other communities our size are more than double (57.1 deaths per million) and the number is just about double for other communities our size in the south (45.4 deaths per million).
Claim: Property loss is less
"Our annual property loss due to fire is about half that of other areas our size," Jacobs said.
Rural/Metro says the county loses an average of $15.08 per person per year. That is about half other areas our size.
Is that the whole story?
We can verify the stats, but they may not tell the whole story.
"It was important to look at [if] the system will be able to keep up with that growth," said Lauer, who put together the report.
He says because Knox County continues to grow, the fire service needs to grow, too.
"If that continues and their funding levels continue where they are now, it will be a challenge," he said.