KIMBALL, Tenn. — Since 2013, the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted annually to provide special coverage for city employees and their families that would cover the cost of an emergency air transport to a medical facility in the 32-state AirMedCare Network.
Now, the board has voted unanimously to extend that coverage to Kimball's volunteer firefighters, too.
While discussing renewing the city's membership in the plan at the board's February meeting, Alderman John Matthews asked about including firemen in the plan.
"I just look at it as [the firefighters] going into a house fire or something and themselves having to be airlifted out," he said. "I think [Kimball's volunteer firefighters] are family to the town itself."
Kimball pays about $1,000 per year to fully cover its city employees in the AirMedCare Network.
The fire department has 17 firefighters currently, but three of those are already covered as city employees.
Officials estimate the additions would only cost the town between $500 and $1,000 per year and likely would be on the lower end of that projection.
Fire Chief Jeff Keef said he didn't have a problem with the board's move.
"That's just a benefit to my firemen," he said.
Mayor Rex Pesnell said the town "could take on that responsibility" for purchasing the extended membership for its volunteer firefighters.
"I think it's a good benefit for the amount of money we pay for it," he said.
Alderman Johnny Sisk said extending the membership to firefighters was a "good idea" and that he never considered the possibility of one of them having to be airlifted to a hospital after being injured fighting a fire.
"If they're on mutual aid outside the county, then our firemen are not covered," he said. "It's already saved people here in the city several thousand dollars because we [Kimball] pay for it."
Officials said Kimball's fire department could be called for mutual aid in neighboring counties such as Jackson County, Ala.
The city also pays about $10,000 annually for a community plan for all households in Kimball that covers residents as long as the emergency flight takes place inside Marion County.
An emergency flight from Kimball Park to Erlanger in Chattanooga costs roughly $75,000, Keef said.
"I know somebody that received a bill for it, but they lived in the city of Kimball so it was wiped clean," he said. "[The board] has really saved the citizens a lot of money."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.