Dear Tree 68: No it is you that does not understand.
Au Contraire - I understand fully and have been involved in discussions on the topic on forums much larger than this.
These folks don't pay property taxes for fire protection. They do so by choice. The fire department in question has no legal responsibility to provide fire protection in the area involved. This particular couple gambled that they wouldn't need fire protection (and admitted as much) and lost.
Here in northern New York (and for most of the country, for that matter), we pay property taxes for fire protection. Everybody pays, no exceptions. The occasional case of someone not paying their property taxes is the exception, not the rule. Thus the fire departments (along with the police, highway department, etc) are all guaranteed a consistent income with which to purchase and maintain their equipment and facilities. And they provide service without having to check on your payment status. You're right - there's no profit involved.
Back to Obion County - There are several cities there which maintain fire departments - that's how they bought those fire trucks. The rural areas do not have fire protection as such. It is provided by the good will of those cities - for a price. Here in JeffCo, that means the township levies a "fire protection tax" on each and every property owner (see the thread on fire taxes). In Obion County, there is no such tax levy. The residents have voted one down in the past. Several times.
I can't blame the fire departments in question for not wanting to provide service without some manner of recompense. The method they've opted with is a subscription program. It provides a stable funding source on which they can depend for planning operations, purchases, etc. If they allowed folks to pay up the $75 if they had a fire, nobody would pay ahead of time, and the fire departments involved would lose that income. Here's
the discussion on this incident on Firehouse.com.
The same thing happened in the same county in 2010, too. Here's
the discussion on Firehouse.com.
It's really not much different than insurance. You're not going to find an insurance company that will sell you a policy after
you have your accident...