Firefighters watch as house burns to the ground: owner had not paid annual firefighting fees

Homeowners in the region outside the town limits of South Fulton, TN, have to pay $75 to come under the protection of the town's firefighters. Late in September, the house of Gene Cranick, who had not paid his $75 for the year, caught fire. When the fire department arrived, they announced that since Cranick had not paid his fees, his house would be allowed to burn to the ground. Cranick offered to pay the $75, but the firefighters weren't having any of it. They eventually acted to put out the fire when it spread to the home of a neighbor who had previously paid. As the mayor said, " if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck."
The Cranicks told 9-1-1 they would pay firefighters, whatever the cost, to stop the fire before it spread to their house.

"When I called I told them that. My grandson had already called there and he thought that when I got here I could get something done, I couldn't," Paulette Cranick.

It was only when a neighbor's field caught fire, a neighbor who had paid the county fire service fee, that the department responded. Gene Cranick asked the fire chief to make an exception and save his home, the chief wouldn't.

We asked him why.

He wouldn't talk to us and called police to have us escorted off the property. Police never came but firefighters quickly left the scene. Meanwhile, the Cranick home continued to burn.

We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception.

"Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't," Mayor David Crocker said.

Firefighters watch as home burns to the ground (via JWZ!)


  1. think of this as an analogy of the difference between a national health service and private medical insurance…..

    1. I am glad to see that I was not the only one that saw a connection to that.

      I am ready to hear all the clueless conservatives in here say that it would be “socialism” to help them thar low-life, free-loading homeowners wantin’ some free service off the gob’ment like fire-rescue… you gots to pay to play!


  2. Wow, is this even legal?

    Imagine if, say, you’d pay an annual fee to doctors- or else they refuse to treat you.. oh, wait.

    Shit like this makes me appreciate I live in a small, socialist-ish country.

    Also, I’ll state the obvious- These fire fighters are horrible, horrible people for letting a person’s hous burn down, money or no money.

  3. This is perfectly sane. A penalty fee can be ignored after services rendered, and will encourage others to opt out of paying $75. It may even encourage arson of homes that aren’t covered. If your car is stolen and it’s not covered, you can’t start paying the premiums and expect the insurers to cover its loss. The real problem here is that there is no mandatory opt-in.

  4. At least the fire chief didn’t offer to buy his burning house for $1000, no, wait, make that $900. No, wait, $800.

    Lighting a few non-payers’ houses on fire would be an extremely effective way of raising funds for the private-assed firefighters…

  5. The local ambulance service does something like this where I live in New Jersey. You can pay a yearly fee and get service at any time during the year for that fee or pay a much larger fee if you ever need to use the service without a subscription. They have family plans also. It would work out better for that town if they went to a payment system like this, then everyone gets service.

  6. … Why does this seem like it is straight out of Discworld’s short lived Firefighter’s guild of Ankh Morpork?

    1. To me the question is what sane person would decide to not have firefighter protection.

      Maybe one of the 14.9 million unemployed people currently in the US.

  7. Is this fucking serious? Public service is NOT quid pro quo. I am never ever going to visit Tennessee again, not even for a stopover.

  8. I assume this was a detached house – and thus no danger to his neighbours property who had paid….

    But still – the fire service ran a risk that the fire would spread and get out of control – just to make a point.

    Which is the reason why certain services like fire and health need to be universal.

  9. Welcome to life under Libertarianism! If this (former) homeowner doesn’t like it, he should create a competing fire department that accepts payment at the time they put out the fire! In all seriousness, the real WTF here is the idea that it’s somehow acceptable to let people opt out of paying taxes for essential services. What’s next, letting people opt out of police protection, or instituting a national Terrorism Protection Fee, and letting Al Qaeda attack anyone who doesn’t pay?

  10. Hard, but correct decision. If you read the news, the house was not inside the public service area; he could have had the house included against 75 dollars, but chose not to do so. The alternative is that NOBODY would pay in the future, knowing that they can pay the “pocket money” when they really needed to.

    You don’t buy insurance after the fact; this is the same situation. Though I admit that the town should have a service for situations like this; how much does it cost to send the fire engines to the location, pay the wages for that day etc etc and add a service fee? Several thousands of dollars, I would think.

  11. If the firefighters save the house of someone unwilling to pre-pay the $75 insurance, this will encourage others not to pay. This, in turn, will force the firefighters to cut their service, perhaps to the point of dis-banding it altogether. At which point, the Cranicks would have been no better off.

    If you’re not going to allow mandatory opt-in, nor pay a voluntary fee, then who’s to blame when your house burns down?

  12. Volunteer Firefighters make up about 75% of all firefighters in the US. Volunteer Departments are funded by association fees, county taxes, fund raisers, or fire protection fees.

    The fees residents pay help make up an annual budget for training in areas such as emergency medicine, CPR classes, Continuing education in firefighting techniques, equipment maintenance and upgrades, and much more.

    If a resident CHOOSES not to pay, then they not only endanger themselves, but their lack of contributions endanger their neighbors in their community as well.

    Offering to “Pay now” that their house is on fire is pathetic. Much like Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper, where the grasshopper spends the warm months singing and playing while the ant worked to store up food for winter, and when winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself starving, and upon asking the ant for food is only turned away for wasting the time he had to collect food.

    Firefighting is a dangerous profession. Firefighters die on a regular basis doing their jobs. Why should the firefighters put their lives on the line for someone who doesn’t see the value of their service, and their importance to the community, until their own house is on fire?

    Most communities have taxes built in to cover emergency services. Some community have a direct fee to residents, much like trash service. If I do not pay my city fees… my trash does not get picked up. Simple as that. Why should this be any different? Because it is a more emotional problem?

    Screw that.

    And for the sake of disclosure, My uncle was a lifetime firefighter who died in the line of duty. His son, my cousin, is a decorated firefighter, and me? I spent more than 15 years of my life as a paid professional and Volunteer Firefighter / EMT until I was injured during a rescue and switched careers.

    Initially my emotions ran to “How could they just stand by?” until I remembered the hassles some of the Volly departments I have known have had…

    No sympathy from me.

    You don’t get to buy auto insurance AFTER your car is stolen or you have been in an accident.

    1. Yeah. god forbid people take responsibility for their own actions. What a silly concept.

      Pay in… your house is saved.

      CHOOSE to not pay… your house burns down.

      How stoopid.

    1. You also used to have taxes under 50% and a thing called “Choice”.

      Ahhh… the good old days.

        1. Sorry I didn’t pay my “Socialist Help Fee” so I am afraid I will gladly be denied your help.

          Funny thing is I am watching Ed Schultz on MSNBC right now.

          But thanks for playing.

        2. WryBread, Checked your link and in the interest of disclosure, lets check a few…

          Austria – 50% Income Tax 20% VAT
          Belgium – 50% Income Tax 21% VAT
          Denmark – 58% Income Tax 28% VAT
          Finland – 53% Income Tax 23% VAT
          France – 41% Income Tax 19.6% VAT
          Germany – 45% Income Tax 19% VAT
          Iceland – 45% Income Tax 25% VAT
          Italy – 45% Income Tax 20% VAT
          Netherlands – 52% Income Tax 19% VAT
          Spain – 45% Income Tax 18% VAT
          Sweden – 55% Income Tax 25% VAT
          UK – 50% Income Tax 17.5% VAT

          So your point was what exactly?

          Oh, we should include Croatia and Macedonia in there? Sorry I was not more specific.

          And one more thing… Man Ed Schultz is a douche nozzle.

          1. I’m from the Netherlands and you conveniently listed the maximum tax percentage (we have a progressive tax system).

            I pay about 42% on my median income, but for that I also don’t have to worry about getting sicks, losing my job, leaving my partner without income after I pass away or you know firefighters not doing their job e.a.

          2. Those are *maximum* rates that kick in at various levels of income. I live in the UK and am in the 40% tax bracket, but I only pay that percentage after I’ve earned income over a certain amount.

            I nearly moved to New Jersey a few years ago with work and I calculated it all out. My tax rate would have been 42% in NJ, 43% in NY. That means federal, state, municipal, sales, etc… taxes and fees added up.

          3. Those are max income tax. That is, you need to be earning above a certain amount before that tax rate kicks in. And most that should be taxed that high (as it would fund a whole lot of national services, and they will be less one bently a year) usually find ways to get around the tax anyways (money earned as something else then “income” most often). End result, said number is at best a paper tiger.

          4. so you pay low taxes and have to pay extra fees for basic things like protection from fire? that is certainly a very good deal.
            also interesting you wrote a comment, then checked the link. most people would consider the opposite approach making more sense, i guess (or at least i hope).
            over in europe, thanks to the taxes, there is also a certain standard guaranteed, which surely wouldn’t be as high within a competitive business model you prefer.
            and you can call BS as much as you want. If you are standing in front of a burning house WITH the equipment and training that enables you to help (read “being a firefighter”) and just twiddle your thumps not feeling any moral imperative you are just the kind of person i would rather not have on this planet.

          5. Well, in the interests of disclosure, they’re the maximum tax rates for those countries. Just sayin’.

          6. In addition to what Gilbert and turn_self_off said about those being -maximum- rates, in France, for instance, this number would be reduced by how many dependants you have, just like the US. Plus, what you’re (obviously) forgetting is that we don’t pay for health insurance in Europe, unless it’s a Mutuel, but that’s typically paid by the employer.

            Here are some hard numbers for you, based on my personal experience with taxes and services in the US versus France:

            Income in US: ~$7,000 USD per month
            Taxes in US: ~$2,500 USD per month
            Self-employment HEALTH CARE BCBS of Illinois $700 per month, pharm not included, $2,000 copay required before insurance kicks in, no maternity. We had a baby in July, so had we been living in the US at the time, that’d be (on average) $15,000. It turned out to require a C-section, so add about $20,000 to that because our insurance wouldn’t have covered it. We didn’t qualify for state help because our income level was too high. Take a super low number ($10,000?) and divide it by 12 to be fair:
            Baby delivery: $833 per month
            Copay minimum spread over 12 months: $166
            IRA contributions because social security won’t pay for much: $800 per month
            Doctor’s visits for baby, per month (extrapolated based on previous visits): $100
            Total cost, USD per month, for taxes & services: $5,100. This doesn’t include drugs if necessary, of course.
            Further note, Average taxes for food, etc in Illinois were ~10%

            Total income, per month: 7,000 EUR
            Taxes: 2,800 EUR
            State insurance: free
            Mutuel (basically an add-on for state insurance, which covers dental etc): 50 eur per month
            Hospital, delivery, etc for baby: free
            Doctor’s visits for baby, each visit (one per month) 10 EUR
            VAT: 20%-ish, but 5% for food. Also we have a garden and grow our own vegetables, which do very well thanks to the (free) compost box provided by the local city.
            Drug costs: ~5 EUR per month
            Total costs: 2865 EUR
            Also, because France wants to increase their population, we get paid ~500 EUR for our first child, 700 EUR or so for the second, and every one after that is something like 1500 EUR, PLUS when we have three kids we get a nanny who, for the last three months of term for the third baby, helps my wife clean up around the house.

            I’m not making any of this up. Now you tell me which country is better at managing services, and which one is more expensive?

          7. I live in Finland. Our VAT is 22% and 53% is the MAXIMUM personal income tax (as stated in that link). I personally pay about 20% income tax, which is comparable to what I paid when I was living in the USA. For my 20% income tax, I get free education through the university level, public health care including prenatal and well-child care, paid parental (both parents are eligible) leave for a minimum of 11 months, a monthly child allowance of 100 euros, subsidized public transit, and of course the obvious things like emergency services, infrastructure, etc. I feel like I’m getting a heck of a lot more benefit from my tax money in Finland than I did in the USA.

          8. Correction to my previous comment: apparently the VAT went up in July. The tax on food went down at the same time, so I hadn’t really noticed a difference in my expenses.

          9. Read the wiki again. Maximum personal tax. In finland, you get charged 53% if you make over 200,000 euros a year. for the middle class its about the same as the US between 25% and 35%.

          10. Ha, in the case of the highest taxed countries (the Scandinavian ones) are you just trying to remind us that a more socially democratic society leads to better quality of life on pretty much all levels? Don’t think your post went as intended. That’s a great argument *against* childish Libertarianism if there ever was one.

        3. Not only that, also that’s the maximum tax you can pay, if you earn tons of euros… For example, that 45% spanish maximum tax is far away from the 20-something% that most of people pay …

        4. “Actually most of Europe has a tax rate well under 50%.”

          And that page says it is not representative of the tax burden in those countries. The marginal rate system makes it impossible to figure the tax burden from the top rate alone. (Though the top rate is near 50% in most European countries.) Also, the VAT is around 20% in most of those countries (sometimes falling to what in the US would be full sales tax rate of 5-7% on things like food and medicine, which in the US usually wouldn’t have any sales tax.) VAT is paid with after-income tax money, so it is a tax on a tax.

          Last time I poked around the UK accounts a few weeks ago, total government receipts were well over 60% of total gross private wages.

  13. “I assume this was a detached house – and thus no danger to his neighbours property who had paid….”

    Actually, a neighbor who had indeed paid the $75 had their house damaged as a result.

    What would they do if a giant wild fire was threatening multiple houses? Could you fight the fire in such a way to only protect certain houses? Could you stop a highly contagious disease while limiting treatment to only those with health insurance? Things like fires, disease, and disasters don’t check insurance status before doing collective harm.

    Certain public services only work if you serve everyone equally. This would allow people to “free-ride” on the system if pre-payment was optional. If this causes funding problems, then you mandate funding. Sometimes “public goods” simply don’t work with private purchases.

    1. Where in the article does it say the neighbor’s house was damaged? The neighbor’s field caught fire and then the fire dept responded.

  14. Yeah I get that stuff needs to be paid for, but certain services are assumed to exist and therefore make sense for taxes to pay for them. After all, if I never need to cross a new bridge being built can I have my own taxes not go to paying for it? of course not! I have to pay like everyone else, even though I’ll cross that bridge three times in my life and only because it’s already there. The fee should simply be part of the property taxes and if people want to bitch you can point out that once there was a system that allowed people’s houses to be burned to the ground over a $75 dispute.

  15. Isn’t this what taxes pay for?

    AHh, no, U.S. taxes pay for aircraft carriers and oil drilling, not commie stuff like healthcare or public safety.
    If that fire department receives ANY tax based contributions (contributions from the state, county etc.) then I would seriously question their decision. If it’s purely voluntary funded only by donations and services fees then they were almost definitely within their rights.

    I’m so happy to live in a socialist based country (public healthcare and security, taxes are used mostly for running the services needed by the citizens).

  16. Place: South Fulton, TN.
    Time: 7:11pm, shortly after dinner.
    Scenario: 72 year-old male, collapsed on sidewalk grasping at chest. Respiration is weak and getting weaker.

    Official report: At 19:20, we were dispatched to [redacted], where we observed a male adult suffering apparent signs of a heart attack. Since he was unable to talk and barely breathing, we flipped him over to extricate his wallet and extract his ID. At 19:55, we ascertained that he was indeed covered, and attempted resuscitation. Unfortunately, he had expired at 19:45.


  17. I´m reading here a lot of angry commenters telling the homeowners to get over it for CHOOSING not to pay. But what about if they CHOOSE to paid for their kids food or education? or mortgage? or debts? or health care?

    Christ! The only assholes here are the South Fulton Fire Department!

    “Sir, my kid is dying of dysentery!”
    “Have you paid your fees?”
    “No, but i´m willing to pay”
    “Sorry Ma´m, im going to let your son die. So next time you pay your fees on advance to be a good citizen”
    “But we are starving!”
    “Have you paid the starving fees?”

  18. There are a number of problems with this situation. I am going to address a few of the comments first.

    1. Maybe they were really poor (cheap shot at Tennessee?). Especially poor people need to make decisions on how to allocate their scarce resources. Even though I am a heavy user of the library, I would make sure to explicitly pay the FD part of the property tax bill before the library one if I was playing this “a la carte” game with my taxes. And I have NEVER called the fire department, and only time I ever called the police department was to collect the drunk driver who crashed into a boulder in front of my house and kept trying to drive away his broken car (I tricked him out of his car keys and gave them to the police, and fire department when they showed up. Must have been a slow night. I even called the non-emergency number. NOT 911)

    2. Excellent insights offered with analogies to auto insurance and the grasshopper and the ant fable.

    If a fire department is going to take the hard line in a situation like this, they should have a prepared statement in their files. It should be on their web site, and they should arrive at the house (if they come) and read it out loud. They should be prepared to read it again with media present. They should have an FAQ file available for the inevitable questions. They should read the statement again for anyone who misunderstood the first time. It is irresponsible for them to act like this and not have this contingency plan. It makes them look bad. The owner’s opted out and had non-buyer’s remorse. I regret their poor decision, and feel that they paid a pretty high price for it, but it is what they wanted. Bet that opt-outs are down in that part of Tennessee for many years until they forget again.

    Don’t get me started about the health insurance. All the private ones are a scam anyway. All the hard cases (read EXPENSIVE to insure) quite quickly fall into medicare, medicaid, social security disability anyway. How could they not turn a huge profit with only healthy people on their rolls and almost EVERYTHING ruled a pre-existing condition.

  19. Many states have “duty to act” codes for professionals (primarily medical, but also applicable to law enforcement), but I don’t see why it wouldn’t apply to any skilled municipal or state-employed professional whose mission it is to preserve life and ensure public safety.

    Apparently, TN does not yet have this code. I’m guessing that’s going to change during the next legislative session.

    & where’s the paypal link to donate to Cranick’s lawyers?

  20. The dumbness abounds, and it’s the kind of dumbness that is a good argument for general taxation.

    One building on fire is not one household affected. It’s a major hazard to the whole neighbourhood.

    People who choose not to pay for cover endanger their neighbours. People who cannot pay are endangered and endanger their neighbours.

    A service for all, paid out of a general pot, gives everyone best protection.

    This privat-fire-service model is often used as a demonstration of how a pure Libertarian society can fail. As, indeed, it seems to have done here.

    1. Fires don’t exactly listen to instructions from mere mortals. Fires can be REALLY unpredictable. Letting a fire go puts everyone in the area at risk.

      This was ridiculously stupid.

      Put the fucking fire out and fine them if you must. But to just let a fire go without trying to stop it? Wow. Just wow.

      They risked having the fire ruin other property and/or go out of control because of $75.

    2. I’m pretty sure letting a big fire burn is a quick way to put some lives at risk. Nice that they were able to stop it when it spread, but what if there *was* someone trapped inside? I would think, according to this example, that nothing would be done to save the person if they hadn’t paid their $75.

  21. I wonder if they would have stood and watched if their children or an elderly relative was trapped inside?

  22. Over here, the fire levy is paid for from your insurance policy, currently (amazingly enough) NZ$76 (incl sales tax). Oh, and landlords must have insurance if they are renting to someone.

    However, they do seem to operate under the “fight the fire, recover the costs later”, and there are frequent arguments when a fire gets out of control while burning off a field.

  23. This isn’t an uncommon situation. Firefighters in a lot of rural areas are supported by volunteer fees, and every so often you hear a sad story about someone who forgot to, or was new to the area and didn’t realize he was supposed to, pony up the fees so that the volunteer firefighters would put out the fire. It happens a lot more than you might think.

    1. I was a volunteer from 1981 through 1986, in a rural area (North Puyallup, look it up (it’s unique)). I remember going to calls in Sumner and Auburn, and as far away as Eatonville (also unique). Because it was the right thing to do, a moral imperative.

      To sit back and gloat, laugh, or just twiddle your thumbs and not do shit is wrong, pure and simple. And, yes, the usage of “twiddle” was meant to remind you of Nero and Rome.

        1. If he was a volunteer firefighter, then he most certainly did because of “moral imperative.” Hence the “volunteer” part, obviously. He could have chosen to stay home. A mutual aid agreement does not mandate that every volunteer immediately leave their home to go risk their life. It simply states that if X happens, then Y resources will possibly/automatically be dispatched along with X’s responding agency.

          It amazes me that anyone can lack the basic human constructs of understanding and love for their fellow man such as you. To think that they get “no sympathy from” you, a previous emergency responder, is beyond revolting. Their house burned down, but because you feel politically motivated by this comment thread, they are suddenly undeserving of any attempt at understanding by your own corrupted mind.

  24. This reminds me of the use of “fire marks” plaques attracted to buildings to show which ones were insured. I think they went out of fashion oh, 200 years ago in the UK. No mark, no cover by the fire brigade. Too bad if it fell down in a storm.
    Link below provides intresting history of fire-departments

  25. I see this as a classic example of insurance. You pay a little fee in advance and in eventu the large costs for an improbable event (fire, in this case) will be paid for by the insurance. If you don’t get insurance, you will have to bear the costs yourself.

    The proper economic decision for the fire department thus would have been to stop the fire and charge the houseowner (not the small annual fee but their actual costs) for doing so, just as they would charge a fire insurance.

    1. Yeah, because having NO Fire services is a great solution to a lack of personal responsibility.

      Teacher – Jimmy, unless you brought enough gum for the whole class, you can’t have any, and you didn’t bring a piece for Gina, so nobody can have gum.

      Jimmy – But Ma’am, I had a sign up sheet and I kept asking Gina to make sure to sign up and she wouldn’t.

      Teacher – Gina, is this true?

      Gina – Yes… but after I saw everyone else getting gum I changed my mind.

      Teacher – There you have it Jimmy… No Gum for anyone because you din’t bring any for Gina.


      1. Unaccredited firefighter: $75
        Accredited firefigher: $325

        Nobody in SF, TN will pay $325, so the FD just goes away. Problem solved (but unemployment just went up by 6 in that city). Maybe they can outsource to India?

        (I think that they should lose accreditation over stupid policy, which can be rectified in an hour by appropriate council emergency meeting.) The county FD is still accredited, so maybe they should open a station right outside of the city limits and outfit all firefighters with credit card swipe machines.)

  26. Holy hell – haven’t had time to read the comments yet, but I live in TN, and never heard about this.

    So my question is, was there some kinda protection racket by Fulton FD? Or have they been run by fundamentalist libertarian mayors and town councilpersons for the last few years – which is it?

  27. I am fairly libertarian, but a situation like this is pretty outrageous. There are plenty of other ways to deal with the situation of people not paying their dues, as has been discussed (make it mandatory – e.g. a misdemeanor offense if you don’t pay – or simply add it to the property taxes, or whatever).

    The saying “reality has a liberal bias” is pretty stupid in most contexts where it’s used, but this sort of situation is where I think it really holds true. It simply makes sense to help people in need for the good of the community/country. I don’t mean people in need in the sense of welfare and so on, I mean people in need whose houses are currently burning down while you’re idling your firetruck outside and don’t have anything else to do. Give me a break, seriously.

    If they didn’t pay the $75 dues, they probably also didn’t pay for insurance on the house. They’re taking their chances… bad decision, sure. But now by “making a point” of their bad decisions by letting their house burn down, you’ve financially ruined these people, and they’ll never be able to contribute anything back to the community. You’ve ruined their lives to make a worthless point.

  28. This is sadistic.

    If the firefighters are so good at tracking who’s paid in for the year (and maybe the Cranicks had paid for the past 20 years…maybe they hadn’t), then why not implement a system where everyone has a “gimme”. If you haven’t paid, and your house catches fire, they’ll come and put it out. Then they send you a bill for equipment rental, firefighter’s hazard pay, etc. It’s harsh, especially if the owners are low income, but it’s fair. If they can’t pay the fees…then they probably couldn’t have paid your protection racket anyway, and you just earned some karma.

    Most hospitals will treat you first and ask for money later. You do hear a few horror stories about ambulances dumping homeless patients in the bad part of town.

    Based on how I hear firefighters talk (especially around women), they grew up wanting to do that job to help people in need. Big heroes every one.

    But maybe they’re a product of their region. The kind of place that produce firefighters who’ll twiddle their thumbs over $75 while your house burns…maybe it’s the kind of place that if one person got a free save, then no one would ever pay. If that’s the case then I think they all deserve each other.

    1. …why not implement a system where everyone has a “gimme”. If you haven’t paid, and your house catches fire, they’ll come and put it out. Then they send you a bill for equipment rental, firefighter’s hazard pay, etc. It’s harsh, especially if the owners are low income, but it’s fair…

      Most hospitals will treat you first and ask for money later…

      Your first paragraph is not even remotely feasible. The second paragraph illustrates why. Hospitals here cost so much because most of them never get paid for a lot of their services. Because they ask for money later instead of first.

      With fires…honestly how many people in the world have their house catch on fire more than once? Your one “gimme” is all they will ever need. And just like hospitals, a ton of people will never pay.

      People keep forgetting this guy didn’t live in the city. In the city they have a FD for everyone. Everyone is covered. Out in the rural area they have to pay to get coverage. This doesn’t seem unreasonable at all. Some folks in the rural section probably don’t want to bother with coverage…and if they want to make that bet then more power to them.

      Again: These people are outside of the city. THEY DO NOT PAY CITY TAXES. So it’s no wonder they don’t get city fire department coverage.

      But crying when you lost out on that bet is your own fault. As others said, you can’t just pay up when the fire happens or no one will ever pay the fee. Fires aren’t common.

  29. This shit is fracking unbelievable! Paint me totally dumbfounded that people here are actually defending the actions of so-called professional firefighters responding to a scene and then refusing to act, when they had every capability to do so.

    Total life fail! If you have the means and opportunity to help, then you do it. C’mon, that’s fucking common sense, common decency and basic imperative. These cretins have occupied the position to perform an essential service and are now failing to perform it when needed because of a billing dispute?!? How much value was lost forever because of this pigheaded bullshit.

    Seriously though, this seems to indicate a disturbing trend where any and all activity and interaction is only regarded through the distorted lens of some Ayn Rand-ian inspired, methamphetamine-overdose induced totalitarian economic transactional nightmare meta-reality.

    [theoretical economic systems don’t account for all the nuances of real life in part because they don’t include asymptotic limits that represent the actual boundaries of reserves of resource materials on the planet, or the limits of an individuals energy output or life span. If the values that we base our systems on don’t relate directly back to an actual individual human beings life and the actual planet that we live on, what the hell good are they?]

    protection racket libertarian gangster zealots

    1. Am I the only one who kinda feels bad that we killed Nutbastard’s dream?

      I mean . . . his DREAM, man, his dream . . .

  30. The internet never fails to bring out self-righteousness, but even I am surprised at the number of smug variations on, “They deserved to have their house burn down.”

  31. That’s weird. My brother, a chief in a rural Colorado fire company, and I were talking about this just yesterday. He said this happens rather a lot. If they respond to your fire and you’re not a subscriber, they put the fire out then send you a bill. It kinda smacks of a protection racket to me, but it’s a fact of life to under-funded rural fire districts. At least they’re not actively torching non-subscribers homes. (“That’s a nice house. It sure would be a shame if anything happened to it.”)

    This was also common in the early days of professional fire fighting. If you weren’t a member of the local fire company, they wouldn’t put out your fire. Sometimes competing fire companies would arrive and duke it out with each other to see who would get to squirt water on your blaze.

  32. I think that’s a pretty shitty way to do things, but in reality, that’s the way it’s going =/ Although to just stand back and watch while someone’s house burns… Most often they will fight your fire and then bill you later.

    My dad’s a Battalion Chief in Gary, Indiana. I’m an EMT and did my training in the same city. For those that don’t know, lets just say Gary has quite the history – former murder capitol of the country, among other things.

    The mayor of Gary has cut the budget for emergency services so much in the past 5 years or so that they are down to usually firefighters per truck, when the trucks are even working, which is insufficient to fight many fires safely. It all comes down to either having citizens pay a “protection fee”, raising taxes, or getting the corrupt members of government replaced. None of that is happening, unfortunately.

  33. It’s a stupid policy because it puts neighboring houses at risk. QED. It actually damaged one.

    Chupacabra [sic], I pay Dutch taxes and I’m from the US. I’ve been doing my own taxes since I was 16. That 52% is a marginal rate, on everything above €55,000 (about $85K). On everything below that, it averages about 40%, which (with the VAT) is kind of steep, but I’m more or less satisfied with where my tax money’s going.

  34. As far as the whole taxes thing in Europe. I live in the Netherlands now… and despite the higher taxes people end up having a comparable / higher disposable income. So frankly, the higher taxes just don’t matter in the way that people from the US complain about.

    The US tax rates may be lower, but enjoy 1) having a huge deficit because super rich people convinced poor people to vote against taxes, 2) paying 150k for each child to go to college, 3) having constantly underfunded programs because luddites think the only branch of the government that can do anything right is the military.

    The attitude of “don’t tax us, let us pay for everything ourselves” just leads to inequity and inefficiencies. I don’t advocate following the tax policies of small European nations, but cmon… a happy medium would be far more logical than effectively squeezing services for everyone but the rich.

    Two side notes about the US that are hardly discussed: 1) The US is essentially locked in a two party system because voting (the mechanics of which is not specified in the constitution) is set up incorrectly. Alternate schemes, such as ranked lists of candidates (i.e. 1. Gore, 2. Nader, 3. Bush) would allow 3rd parties to exist without directly stealing votes from similar parties. There’s lots of discussion about how to make a “viable” 3rd party, and so forth, but this is essentially the entire reason…

    2) As everyone knows, Senatorial rules not written into the constitution are the reason the senate is unable to accomplish anything. It takes a 2/3rds majority to overcome cloture… but only a 50% majority (and of course, breaking with “tradition”) to remove cloture from senate rules…

  35. Hey, all you folks debating whether they could or should have paid, whether they were in the public service area, the implications of pre- and post-purchased insurance, etc etc ad nauseam…

    Could somebody please explain to me: in what world is it OK to stand around and WATCH SOMEONE’S HOUSE BURN TO THE FUCKING GROUND? How is that even up for discussion?

    If believing in a moral imperative to help your fellow man makes me a socialist / commie / label-of-the-week, then sign me up. Just keep me far, far away from the screw-you-buddy-I’m-OK brigade.

  36. And this is what the Republicans want for the US…you have to pay for everything and if you don’t, you get screwed.

    Would it be funny if the guy who didn’t pay was a Tea Party member?

  37. From the article: “They’re doing their job,” Paulette Cranick said of the firefighters. “They’re doing what they are told to do. It’s not their fault.”

    It damn well is their fault. It seems they aren’t obliged to do anything, but they’ve chosen to do nothing so it is their fault.

    (I’ll remember this, for the next time some libertarian American accuses me of doing whatever my socialist government of telling me to.)

  38. If I may chime in from a different, non-economic perspective:

    Burning houses provide one of the absolutely richest sources of carcinogens you will come across in a city. We’re talking about burning plastics, woods, insulation, paint, etc. all in one big bonfire. Feel free to hit up Pubmed or Google Scholar for Austin’s 2001 “Characterization of volatile organic compounds in smoke at municipal structural fires.” You can hit up PubChem for details on the various compounds produced: every single one is a well-researched and very potent carcinogen.

    75$ or not, libertarian utopia or proper come-uppance for an insurance-declining twit/poor homeless man, the city chose to bathe the entire team of firefighters, the man living in that home, neighbors, and quite a few people within the surrounding few blocks (depending on wind patterns) with a very rich smog of carcinogens. That’s harmful to everyone in the area, including the firefighters themselves. It was stupid, self-destructive, and short-sighed, above and beyond all other ethical considerations at hand.


  39. Welcome to the logical conclusion of neo-liberal capitalism and the end of ‘society’. You don’t pay, you die or your house burns down. Nice, very nice. But even from the point of view of pure human decency this is entirely wrong, let alone from any other perspective. The only view it makes sense in is an entirely economistic one. I hope those firefighters and local government officials never find themselves ill or homeless and in need of the help of others…

  40. When I was younger worked for a fee based fire department, I never thought to ask during the interview such a nutty question, what a nightmare few months that was. I got in trouble a few times when I ordered firefighting operations in places where no fees had been paid. I felt I had a moral and also a religious iron clad requirement to eliminate even the smallest danger to human life.

  41. What the firefighters did was wrong. If that’s the policy of the local FD then it needs to change. As several people have pointed out letting a fire burn out of control is dangerous and stupid. What if they’d later learned that someone who was thought to be elsewhere was in the house? What if someone got hurt or killed trying to put out the fire while they stood around dong nothing?

    What should have happened is the city should have put the fire out and billed the homeowners (or their insurance) to cover all the man hours, equipment used, and overhead (like worker’s comp insurance etc…). If the homeowners (or their insurance) didn’t pay up, you put a lien on the property and you put the screws to them to pay up through legal channels. If necessary you write it into the local municipal or county code and you make sure everyone who owns property in the area is aware that this is how it works when they move in.

    Furthermore, $75 per house/property is stupid/unfair. It should be a function of the value of the property because a small 700SF house is not the same as a 5,000 SF McMansion (or a large commercial building with fire sprinklers and it’s own fire suppression system).

    All in all, what I take away from this is that this is a small backward hick town that has some really heartless and stupid people running it and it’s a good lesson in why I’ll go to great lengths to never live someplace like that.

  42. Hot damn, and here I thought paying protection money was only something you had to do to the mafia.

  43. This situation is how insurance companies got started in England: if you were paid up with your fees for, say, Sun Alliance ( one of the first private firefighting/insurance companies ) you were required to bolt a company plaque to your wall as proof, otherwise you were left to burn. It is one of the reasons we have a publicly-funded fire service, and we are very far from a socialist society ( more like a benevolent dictatorship with an illusion of choice given out as a sop every few years .

    1. It sounds like this is one municipality which never graduated from the old system of selling fire protection as insurance. I really hope they make the effort to ensure that all residents of the area are aware of that and have the opportunity to buy in.

      Conceptually, this is where the Libertarians and other small-government types want to take us. People who really insist that their costs be minimal drop the optional service; people who want the service pay the additional fee in lieu of the tax which would otherwise cover this cost.

      But in fact it isn’t as efficient or effective as a municipal service. For example it means folks with limited income are likely to be unprotected, and thus more of a risk to their neighbors should they have a fire. Some things really don’t work as well when privatized.

      I’m sure the town would say “Sure, we can have a public fire service, but we’ll have to raise taxes to cover it.” Then the question is whether people in the area are civic-minded enough — and understand the risks/benefits/costs well enough — to vote that into place. If not, well… you don’t always get what you pay for, but you should never count on getting what you aren’t willing to pay for.

  44. I would imagine a good and sufficiently motivated DA could get all the firefighters for criminal negligence. Letting a house burn down when you’re right there with the correct equipment and training sounds pretty criminal to me, regardless of the economic arguments.

  45. It is a moral imperative to put it out regardless of whether or not they have paid. To sit by and gloat is not right. Firefighting is a public service. It is the same as a hospital refusing emergency treatment for the uninsured and poor.

    I guess the question is why? Why would this town move to such a fee based structure to provide its firefighting and then refuse those who haven’t paid in a time of emergency? It seems like they are using this case as an example to the rest of those who don’t pay up. That seems like extortion to me, because you are using fear to coerce people into paying.

    What if someone were trapped in the home? Would they attempt a rescue?

  46. Those folks lost everything, and some people feel they deserve it? I think I need a unicorn chaser. With pugs, babies, and double rainbows.

  47. Another note: My grandfather built his town’s first firetruck. I doubt that he would have even spent a whole second debating whether or not to save a house from fire, regardless of what pay system is in place. And neither would the men I met at his funeral. I hope those men get scathing words from their friends, family, pastors (small town TN and they don’t go to church? doubt it) They may be legally correct (an indication of a broken law) but morally speaking they are only slightly less wrong than if they had set the fire themselves.

  48. If it makes anyone feel better the local paper says it was the son of the home owner that punched out the fire chief over this incident. An interview with the homeowner on the local radio station even stated that they reported someone in the house in an attempt to get the fire department to respond but they still refused to do so. He also said that the fire started when his son (the guy that punched out the fire chief) was burning garbage in the back yard.

    The Messenger article.

  49. We have property tax systems for a reason. If the county had any desire to operate above the board, an agreement would have been in place between the town and the county whereby county residents have the safety services fee included with their property taxes. Don’t pay your taxes and a lein is put on your property until you do pay. However, if two years pass without you paying your taxes, the county forecloses on your property. That’s how it works in Michigan, and it’s one of the few things that work fairly, morally and properly here.

    Humans have developed the rules for civil society through trial and error for thousands of years. To ignore the tenets of civil society to make some priggish libertarian point is amoral at best, totally irresponsible and largely dangerous at the worst.

    1. Only if they’ve paid, and I, received, their Euthanasia Fee. Otherwise, it’s far more profitable to make them miserable and sell them promises of fame and fortune. Of course they have to pay for it, because nothing is free. I require exorbitant amounts my regional Human illusory value units to show the smallest iota of decency to such a creature as a human being.

  50. This is pure insanity. There is no goodwill, no shred of dignity, respectability or sense of community in any of this. I just can’t believe anyone would try to rationalize this in any way. F*** the “you see, you pay insurance ahead of time…” This is public service, should be paid for by taxes, for the common good.

    What I don’t understand is- why did the firefighters show up (at what cost?), bring out the trucks and then not put out the fire?

    This is indefensible. I can’t believe I live in a country where any suggestion of support not provided by private, financially-invested interests is condemned by those who, for the most part, call themselves “Christians”.

    The “Invisible Hand” is economics 101 people. Remember that?

  51. By the way, these people lost their pets in the fire too. Three dogs and a cat, according to HuffPo.

    I don’t think a fire fighter should risk his or her life to save a pet. But if they got there, the fire was more or less small and they went ahead and let the pets die as an added “lesson” in paying your fire tax… well, I really have to ask what the hell is wrong with those people.

    If my neighbor’s house was on fire I’d do anything I could to help. That’s just basic human decency.

  52. Not even a DA. Anshi is in her third (and final) year of law school, and just as outraged as most of us are. When I told her about his, she beat me to the punch and asked, “Do you think that Tennessee is a good vacation spot?” OMG I love her too much. I hope that her advisor approves it.

    Oh, and to those who disagreed with me about a professional obligation or moral imperative to act, I know that you’d change your mind in a second (and regret your whole worthless misspent pathetic existence) if you were on the receiving end of the proposition.

    I’ll take that shot with a Unicorn chaser, please.

  53. What was it the mafia called this sort of scheme?

    Of course, if this is how their fire department operates, I can’t even imagine what kind of racket the cops are running.

  54. “If my neighbor’s house was on fire I’d do anything I could to help. That’s just basic human decency.”

    There’s NO ROOM for human decency in our free market libertarian tax-free paramilitary utopia! Communist!

    Seriously, this is a great argument for taxes going for the common good. If everyone pays a small amount, the Fire Department can operate and save anyone’s house. Society then benefits from having a family that is not homeless and can contribute to the local economy.

    This is also how healthcare should work.

    And schools.

    And the military.

    And infrastructure.

    And maybe even the internet.

    But selfish people will seek to maximize their gains by refusing to pay since “they’re not a big risk, why should they have to pay for others?!”

  55. Matthew 25:31-46 (King James Version)

    When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

    And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

    And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

    For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

    Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

    Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

    When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

    Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

    For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

    I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

    Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

    Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

    And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.



    Nor would I wish to.

  56. I’m not sure a lot of the commenters read the article. You’re saying that the fire service would have been covered under the property tax, or from living in the town or something.

    The property was not in the town. It was outside the town, in the county. The county residents pay no taxes for a county fire department, nor do they pay town taxes for the town’s fire department. Thus the $75 opt-in, which I see as *exactly* like insurance. Or see it as a optional, specific-use tax.

    Do you expect the town’s fire department to cover the county residents for free? Or for the town’s residents to pay for the fire department to go and fight fires for all the county residents who don’t pay town taxes? How many people would be talking “moral imperative” when you’re paying taxes for your city services to be used for people outside your city who chose not to be part of your city or pay the taxes, but want your services anyway?

    I’m not saying there’s not a better way. I’m just sayin’ RTFA.

    1. Well, I mean, if they’re there ANYWAY with the trucks and the hats and the Dalmatian and the ladders and the bells, in that case, yeah.
      I RTFA and it in no way sheds new light on this debate, nor undermines arguments from any side.

  57. First off, it’s not that uncommon for firefighters to stand by and watch as buildings burn down. Putting out fires is dangerous and expensive business, and if no one’s life is at stake then it’s sometimes best to focus on containment and let the fire burn itself out, as inevitably happens. This is especially true in rural areas, where you have plenty of space between homes and you don’t have fire hydrants everywhere. Putting out a fire in the country might require running relays of multiple tanker trucks to provide a steady supply of water, possibly draining someone’s irrigation pond in the process. And before anyone says “but they were already there!”, in this case they apparently responded only to handle a neighboring field fire, which is a different scale of operations from putting out a fully-involved housefire.

    Second, it’s the city’s fire company, and they only recently extended their service outside the city. (Here’s a much more informative article: The city residents pay for their service. If their equipment and manpower are out of town putting out this guy’s fire, who’s responding to alarms in the city, where a fire could be much more dangerous? Residents outside the area of coverage can now choose to their services as well, which is an option they did no have before. And if some people here were to their way, an option they would not be allowed to have. Apparently the more important your service, the more people have the right to demand that you serve them.

    It’s too bad that the guy’s house burned down, but apparently arranging a payment of $75 dollars a year to support the huge expense of extending rural firefighting operations was not worth it to him. I hope he had more foresight when it came to choosing his homeowner’s insurance.

  58. Troy Conrad is a nut job. I couldn’t believe the absurdities he was speaking at “Color indoctrination?” According to Troy, there were towns that had yellow fire engines until President Obama forced them to paint them red. Hilarious.

  59. Further research shows that the subscription based system was chosen by the county over a .13 property tax increase. So…lemme get this straight…

    Now, we’re talking about a county with a population of 32,450. So a .13 tax would be about $4,000 a year. Which, for a county volunteer fire service, could work, depending how the plan was laid out…. Not having seen the entire plan, I cannot tell how initial expenses for start up would be handled.

    Instead, only people not already in the 8 municipal areas are paying the $75.

    Obion has a population of 1,134 or – 475 households. These people are paying $35,625 a year for fire protection.

    Hornbeak has a population of 435
    Rives has a population of 331
    Samburg has a population of 260
    South Fulton has a population of 2,517
    Troy has a population of 1,273
    Union City has a population of 10,876
    Woodland Mills has a population of 296
    Kenton has a population of 1,306

    This leaves another 14,022 in unincorporated Obion. about another 6,000 households, give or take. So, that’s another $450,000 in fees paid.

    So, for over a half a million dollars a year taken in, there is no county fire service.

    Looks to me like somebody’s pockets are getting lined pretty nicely.

    1. Ceronomus, can you provide us with some links? I’d like to be able to back up my arguments on other forums with this information. (BTW, what makes this worse is the mayor’s reaction: “Didn’t pay? Tough luck.” He could have done a lot of damage conotrol by saying “This is regrettable; we’re going to find out why the fee wasn’t paid, and we’ll take steps to keep this from happening again.” Instead he comes across as a callous brute.)

  60. “The city residents pay for their service. If their equipment and manpower are out of town putting out this guy’s fire, who’s responding to alarms in the city, where a fire could be much more dangerous?”

    The correct response to this dilemma would seem to me to be clear:

    “Your taxes go to pay for the fire department.”

    So instead of charging $75 for a protection racket, they charge everyone in the rural zone $5, and thus help everyone in the zone (and probably make more money anyway).

    I, for one, would gladly pay $5 a year to save a neighbor’s house.

  61. The government needs to mandate that all insurance should be bought after the fact.they should make it illegal to even pay premiums before hand…wouldn’t that be the the nice thing to do? Forget non-bankrupting business models.

  62. I, for one, would gladly pay $5 a year to save a neighbor’s house.

    You aren’t a libertarian. This sort of thing where everyone pays for everything on their own instead of taxing everyone equally (and the people who can’t afford to pay obviously don’t deserve it) is basically a libertarian’s wet dream. It’s a terrible, unworkable system.

    Socialism somehow has been turned into a dirty word in the US (I am Canadian), but it is really the only way to have a fair and equal society.

  63. Unreal.
    Anyone that thinks this was OK and the firefighters were right to allow the house to burn is wrong. End of story, there is no argument.
    Don’t even bother because whatever you have to say is stupid.

  64. You need to read the article a little closer.

    The part of the county where this house was located did not have *any* fire department coverage. The fire department was located in a nearby town. The only coverage outside that town was on a case-by-case basis as covered by fees. ie, the county is not providing this service, at all. And for all we know, the town could have passed mandatory fees inside its own jurisdiction to covers its area.

    Technically, the fire department should not have even been dispatched to this scene.

    And no.. there is no criminal liability. There is no requirement that a person risk life to protect property.

    It is sad. Yes. It is also the reality that the county has no universal fire coverage outside the town mentioned. Most areas would have tried to get a volunteer department to make up the difference.

    I was, and a lot of my family is still, volunteer fire fighters in rural West Virginia. We took the matter into our own hands back in the 1960’s and made our own fire departments. We provided universal coverage in our areas. But, we did not provide universal coverage outside our areas.

  65. Now, the fire department should be sued by the neighbor that paid and got some fire in his property because they did not wanted to put the first fire off!!!

  66. If you’re capable of helping in a situation like that, you are morally obligated to do so without regard to payments. Amazing that so deep into the Bible Belt that there were apparently no actual practitioners of Christianity in the fire crew or in the local government hierarchy.

  67. South Fulton Fire Dept. Mission Statement:

    “The mission of the South Fulton Fire Department is to protect the lives and property of its citizens, and provide good public relations through fire safety education to all businesses and schools.”

    Guess they need to revise that part about “protect the lives and property of its citizens”. They don’t protect citizens, they only protect subscribers.

    And the fact that they LET the pets die without making any attempt to save them… isn’t that criminal? Why hasn’t the ACPCA chimed in, yet?

    The firefighters (AND the mayor) should be ashamed of themselves. Absolute jerks.

    1. No, I know that *THIS* BB reader is just trying to figure out where a HALF MILLION DOLLARS a year is going when there still isn’t fire coverage.

      1. Isn’t that $0.13 per thousand dollars of value in the property, not per person? I.e., it’s probably several hundred thousand dollars not raised, not $4000.

        1. If it is .13 per thousand, which could be the case, I just went by the literal number, that makes a bit of a difference. Homes in the area range from $25k to about $145k. So if we go on a median house price of $85k (which looks high from what I’ve seen) you would be looking at about an $11 tax increase. So, that would raise about $73k a year as opposed to the HALF MILLION.

  68. The ghost of Ayn Rand chortles for a few moments before realizing the non rationality of her fate.

  69. You don’t let your neighbor’s house burn down, period.
    Anybody who sees this as reasonable is a failure as a human being.

  70. ” It is also the reality that the county has no universal fire coverage outside the town mentioned. Most areas would have tried to get a volunteer department to make up the difference.”

    I think people are having a problem with the “We’ll do it for $75, but not otherwise.”

    If there’s enough infrastructure to charge individual homes $75 to get protection, there should be enough infrastructure for the community to have everyone pay into the same pot, and have the department protect everyone there (or hire new firefighters, or whatever that $75 is doing now).

    They clearly had a method to put out fires in place, the problem is that it is not applied to “people who have fires” but rather to “people who paid.”

  71. Oh, I’m sorry sir, you didn’t pay your medical fee so we can’t treat you for or inoculate you against the plague. See those nice people over there that you’ve been coughing on? They paid their fees so they’ll be fine!

    A classic example of why every essential service has to be universal and publicly funded. If it ends up being on a subscription basis then racketeers show up and jack up the fees until ALL of the money in the society goes to them. As Ceronomus’s analysis would seem to show the set-up here is simply there to line someone’s pockets while providing services that could be provided for a fraction of the cost under a public system.

    If there’s a high capital cost of initial infrastructure and an unpredictable revenue stream (that you are trying to push down to zero through prevention schemes) then there can be no meaningful competition and you end up with either a monopoly or nothing anyway. Actually, competition usually makes things a lot worse as everyone has to buy every conceivable piece of infrastructure to “stay competitive” so everyone has a huge fixed cost and they all go bankrupt at once. The essential service then disappears and people die until the replacement shows up in a few years. I remember hearing about a US hospital administrator starting to weep when told that the competing hospital down the road had bought a “gamma-knife” radiation machine and wall-to-wall carpeting. “It’s the END!” he wailed. “Now we’ll all have to get this stuff and none of us can afford it so we’ll all slowly go bankrupt. If we don’t get it then we’ll quickly go out of business due to competition and our shareholders will sue us.”

    The “Invisible Hand” of the market is a retarded giant who eternally makes the same mistakes.

    BTW – I remember some story about an insurance company’s fire department in LA. There’s one of those micro-towns that they have out there full of rich idiots who don’t want to pay any taxes so there’s no fire department. During the last set of brush fires the insurance company ran the numbers and found out that the best risk management strategy was to set up a fire department instead of risking having to pay off even one mansion burning to the ground. They, of course, had to fight almost all of the fires in the area, be they brush or uninsured mansion, to protect their properties. Not the way that a hard-core Libertarian would do it but then those guys are generally innumerate when it comes to risk management.

    BTW-BTW – Was the information needed to make a rational decision available to this guy in Tennessee or was the stuff about risking loosing your house just marked down in a file kept in a locked cabinet in a disused lavatory in the basement of the county jail which was marked with a sign saying “Beware of the Leopard!”? Maybe it was up on a website somewhere but this guy got disconnected because a robo-server made three crapulent accusations that he illegally downloaded a 1928 Mickey Mouse cartoon.

  72. I knew a lot of BoingBoing commenters wouldn’t be my first choice of neighbors since we’d argue a lot. I am surprised to find a lot wouldn’t be in my top half choices from all of humanity, since they’d be happy to watch my home burn to the ground over petty cash and paperwork.

    Remember, always fill out your 217B-6, or you deserve whatever horrible fate befalls you.

  73. Libertarianism is a really stupid way to organize a society, and that stupidity will be measurable in buildings burned and lives lost. Obviously this whole situation was terrible, but I don’t like people jumping on the fire department and blaming them for what happened. They didn’t start the fire, and I can’t imagine that any of them voted for a system that allowed people to opt out of fire protection.

    The idea that the fire department is getting rich of this fee seems pretty ridiculous to me. In an area where people aren’t willing to have tax increases even to pay for essential services, it’s pretty hard to believe that public services are doing better than barely staying afloat.

    Incidents like this might help to wake people up from the insane dream of not paying taxes and then having the government to look out for you when things to wrong. I’m being not smug; I don’t feel good about what happened at all. It really makes me sad that we live in a society that is so short sighted, selfish and hateful that this sort of thing would happen. But we do, and we can’t blame the firefighters for that.

    To be clear, I think the firefighters should have immediately reacted and put out the fire even though the fee wasn’t paid. When it comes to people’s lives being at risk, it is better to react to the situation and not think about the long term consequences. But ultimately whatever those firefighters could have done that day wouldn’t help a society where people detest each other so much that they are not willing to pay a cent for anything to help their neighbours unless they can be sure it benefits them as well.

    It’s not infuriating that the firefighters watched the house burn, it’s depressing, and inevitable.

  74. “Hello 911”
    “Help! There is someone in my house! He has a gun!”
    “Thank you for your call, we value your business. The first thing I would like to do is verify your identity. please provide your Police Request ID and password, and once we verify that you have purchased service from the Police department, we will assign an officer to be dispatched.
    “Ma’am, please provide your Police Request ID and password.”
    “Ma’am, as it does not seem that you have a valid Police Request ID, I am going to transfer you to our sales department. You will be happy to hear that we are running specials this month on all 7 tiers of our law enforcement protection when purchased in our Triple Play package along with Firefighter coverage and Coroner service.”

  75. As a libertarian, I am in awe of the power you seem to think we have and wield. None of the people in the city government were libertarian. They would probably be *offended* if you called them libertarian (libertarians bein’ dope smokin’, anti-Christian sorts, after all).

    I do agree that they should have had a policy in place to deal with people out in the sticks who didn’t pay the $75: when a fire occurs, take the $75 along with a $1000 late fee.

    All you Europeans talking about how glad you are that you don’t live in America: not half as glad as I am that you aren’t. I’d rather have every hard-working Mexican, Vietnamese or Nigerian (insert any other nationality) that can make it across the border or ocean live here than you socialists.

    All these liberal tears! How I wish I had a monocle so I could polish it with them. All these liberal tears, and I have yet to see any of you offering to create an organization to make sure people in the unincorporated county remember to pay their $75 or to help those who truly need it pay for it. No, it’s much easier to say “That government was wrong and I despise their meanness.”

  76. If I were a fire fighter I would not be able to sleep at night knowing I let someone’s house burn to the ground over $75.00.

    I understand the economics and that the Cranick’s chose not to pay for whatever reason. It is unclear about how or if the FD contacts people who have not paid to remind them. Yes, blame them for not paying, being irresponsible, stupid, whatever. Sure, if the Cranick’s got fire protection without paying it MIGHT encourage others to not pay as well. (I think most responsible people would pay their $6.25 per month just because it is the right thing to do.)

    It just seems inhumane to imagine a bunch of firefighters standing around with their equipment watching a family lose everything.

    Libertarianism or not, is this what we (Americans) have become? Selfish, uncharitable, evil, vengeful, shallow. Shame.

    Karma likely won’t be as charitable.

  77. I’m from the area so I’m going to go ahead and declare myself an expert in this area.
    (1) I feel it’s Cranick’s fault his fire started in the first place, he was burning trash in a barrel. (A common practice in rural west TN.) It’s been so windy and dry that all it would have taken was a spark, a bad time to burn anything. Several fields have already caught because of cigarette butts being thrown out of passing cars.
    (2) South Fulton is a tiny town, there is not even a gas station in South Fulton. You can’t even buy milk in South Fulton. So you can imagine that it’s city services are also understaffed and underfunded. As a matter of fact, so small that they are all housed in one building.
    (3) Because Obion is not in city limits it’s residents are asked to pay a “rural fire fee” that offsets the cost of responding to rural fires. Having a rural fire fee is common practice, it’s paid once per year and is usually only around $50. A small price to pay for the help you expect.
    (4) Even so, this situation was handled badly. The fire should have been extinguished immediately. Like I said it’s very very dry here. The neighbor who paid is lucky it didn’t end on a worse note.
    Beth Cravens
    East of Obion
    South of South Fulton
    Martin, TN

  78. From another article…

    “Cranick lives outside of the city limits and he admits that he forgot to pay a $75 annual service fee”

    HE quite possibly just forgot to pay it, as opposed to refused to pay it.

  79. But Beth, here’s the half million dollar question. Where does all that money go? You’ve stated, everything is underfunded. But math shows that a half million a year in fees are being paid (give or take the folks that haven’t paid).

    That money is going somewhere, and it certainly isn’t going towards the city services if they are as underfunded as you state.

    1. The question is, why doesn’t Obion County have a county fire dept? Several of the small communities you mentioned earlier have their own volunteer fire depts that they fund. As for where’s the money? That is a good question. It’s also not the first time this question has been asked. If’n you know what I mean.
      (on a side note, this story has made it to the UK, not a proud moment for West TN)

    2. I admire your efforts to figure this out using simple math, but a bit more searching starting with the Mother Jone’s article you link yields the

    3. Good catch Endstar. However, my math only covered households, not businesses. Either

      a) The households are covering everything and businesses are exempt from the fee or

      b) every business is ALSO paying the $75 dollar fee in which case we probably have at least another half a million dollars flowing in.

  • Obviously the only sane policy is the same as hospitals have. If you require emergency care, but don’t have insurance, they give you care, but bill you the amount it costs. So they put out the fire and send this guy a bill for $5000 or whatever it costs. Not just let the house burn to the ground. Not only is it cruel, but it’s just not rational.

  • It would’ve been nice to save this house, but failure to do a nice thing is different from doing the wrong thing. The firefighters didn’t let anyone die, they let someone’s property burn. It’s harsh, but these people chose their fate.

    The government doesn’t tell people where to live, and I don’t think many people would argue that it should. We let people choose where to live, which means there need to be incentives to encourage people to organize themselves rationally. Historically, people organized themselves into towns to lower transportation costs and so that everyone can chip in so they can afford to buy services within a reasonably sized area.

    Folks who choose to live outside city limits aren’t part of that collective and aren’t entitled to those benefits. They don’t get sewers or water or garbage collection or local police or anything else. Instead, they get low taxes and fewer land use restrictions.

    Extending services to rural areas, even just selective services they can purchase, has major unintended consequences (urban sprawl, overly expensive infrastructure, screwed up local budgets, etc) because it takes away the incentive people have to organize themselves rationally. Alternatively, you could have the feds tell everyone they have to live in cities, but that seems a little un-American to me.

    The irony in this libertarian vs socialism debate is that the way most rural communities get fire protection is with what essentially amounts to a socialist co-op more than a money grubbing corporation. There’s no money to be made providing coverage in the boondocks (hence the existence of cities!) and there’s no way the government can afford to pay for it, so there you have it.

    Anyway, the fire chief/major are jerks, but I’m almost willing to give them a pass for it.

  • For the comments against libertarianism: How can this even remotely held against libertarianism?
    The argument makes no sense, since those firefighters are part of a government-run service.

    Anyways, if firefighters were not run by the government, here’s what you’d get:
    -the firefighters would probably have done the job, although maybe for more than 75$ since the homeowner didn’t pay his insurance
    -competing fire insurance companies would try to offer better services (hard to anticipate what kinds of innovations) at better prices (unlike government monopolies), so the owner could have afforded the insurance
    -fire insurance companies would do a better job at prevention, since it saves them costs for a given insurance fee
    -charities would cover the insurance fee for houses they donate or lend to the poor (it makes sense to protect your investment)

    It’s interesting how people have a blind spot when it comes to government (I used to have that one too), but it’s sadly ironic that this story can be seen as a refutation of libertarianism.

    1. Perhaps because that’s how things *were* back in the Gilded Age and this is an opt in situation? The funny arguments about market sanity and predictability are comical. Ahh Libertarians….yeesh.

    2. For the comments against libertarianism: How can this even remotely held against libertarianism? The argument makes no sense, since those firefighters are part of a government-run service.

      Because this is exactly how things worked back when most fire companies were privately run for-profit entities. Ever travel to an old American city and see little fire placards on some of the buildings? That placard once meant that the building owners were paid up on their fire insurance to one of the local engine companies, and if the building lit up the company would try to put it out. No placard? Out of luck. That particular fire company busy at another site? Out of luck. None of your neighbors choose to pay for fire insurance? Then you were in a high-risk fire zone and there’s nothing you could do about it.

      None of your theories about how things would be if we didn’t have government-run monopolies in charge of fire fighting have been borne out by history. If you think this is a terrible outcome from this situation then you’re either living in denial or you’re not a true libertarian.

      1. I’d still rather have the choice to either spend my own money on my own fire prevention and/or firefighting equipment, or choose to join a co-op or buy insurance with it.
        The point is, the choice should be mine, not yours to inflict on me via the ballot box.

        1. That’s fine if you’re living in isolation but if I’m your neighbor then your decision whether or not to have fire insurance directly effects the odds of my house catching on fire.

      2. “Because this is exactly how things worked back when […]”
        Could you offer a historical reference?

        “No placard? Out of luck.”
        Really? They will refuse to take an emergency fee and make a profit on an unprepared victim? Here I thought people were too greedy…
        Sure, someone without a prior insurance contract would be lower priority than a regular customer (for which the insurance company is liable). Aside from that, this scenario makes no sense.

        “That particular fire company busy at another site? Out of luck.”
        Right, people pay companies that don’t offer any kind of guarantee. The insurance company fails to deliver, the victim does not get compensation and the company gets even more customers/suckers…
        If a company generally under-provisions its service, then it will lose customers and profits, and probably end with a bunch of lawsuits.

        “None of your neighbors choose to pay for fire insurance?”
        Then you will be able to buy your house for cheaper, which compensates for the added risk. Houses in such neighborhoods and generally “dangerous” neighborhoods (floods, landslide, etc.) are cheaper (buyers aren’t willing to pay as much) and the insurance is more expensive (due to high risk).

        Overall, I’m afraid your arguments simply don’t hold water.
        That is why I am curious to learn about the historical situations you mention. There must be some discrepancy between your arguments and the actual historical problems.
        Either your explanation misses an important point, or the historical situation that you’re referring to is not like you suggest.

        As a last point, I will ask: what is the optimal production of fire insurance service in society?
        Will some houses still burn in the free-market? Sure.
        Like all economic decisions, difficult trade-offs will be needed, as resources are limited and goals prioritized. People will only invest resources into a service up to the point that their gain (of reduced risk) offsets the cost, in their mind. The ideal risk is not zero.

        1. If a company generally under-provisions its service, then it will lose customers and profits, and probably end with a bunch of lawsuits.

          You can see this in action with alarm services, which are never under-provisioned thanks to market forces.

          Then you will be able to buy your house for cheaper, which compensates for the added risk.

          And if they stopped paying fire insurance after you moved in, at least you have the privilege of living with true freedom before a neighbor’s fire destroys all your things.

  • There’s a point that many of you are missing entirely:
    By the time any fire department responds to a rural house fire, that house is probably so badly damaged that it will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
    Firfighters in town routinely use thousands of gallons of water to douse structure fires. This does more damage to the structure than the fire, in many cases.
    Why would they do this?
    The fact is that, in town anyway, the fire department responds to prevent YOUR house from burning down your NEIGHBORS’ houses.

  • It’d also be great if I could only pay my insurance companies when I got sick and needed coverage, or if I could only pay my car insurance when I’d just had an accident.

    If that’s how the system worked and the family made a choice not to opt in, then yeah, that’s what happens. Otherwise no one would ever pay till their house was on fire.

  • ah you silly socialists. yes, this is libertarianism and it’s beautiful. the man failed to take personal responsibility, and the man suffered the consequences.

    i know you’d all like a world where everyone is protected from themselves and forced to participate in all manner of ‘protections’.

    I’d like one where (in)actions have consequences, where people pay for what they use, and don’t get use of things they haven’t paid for. that’s called theft, in case you forgot.

    don’t get me wrong – life would be much more comfortable for everyone under socialist policies, mandatory insurances etc. most people would have less to worry about and they’d be generally happier. cars that drive themselves could save thousands of lives.

    but i dont want a car that drives itself. I want to drive the car. I want to take responsibility for myself, my welfare, my health. if my car crashes or breaks down, I want it to be my fault. if i starve or die young i want it to be my fault. I never want to have anyone else to blame for a shitty retirement or substandard living conditions.

    you may be content to be coddled through life, but i am not. I don’t want the safety net, and i don’t want to pay for yours either. however, because i already am, you’ve already broken my dream, because now i have someone else to blame for why my paycheck is what it is. you’ve forced me to point my finger at someone else, and to me, this is unforgivable.

    1. What a load of crap.

      Without the socialist roads, you’d have nowhere to drive.

      It’s also not clear to me how your desire to have no safety net trumps the desires of others to have one. We live in a democratic republic, which means we get to vote on how our society is run.

      If you want to play Mr. Rugged Individualist, please find another nation to fuck up. kthxbai.

    2. ah you silly socialists. yes, this is libertarianism and it’s beautiful. the man failed to take personal responsibility, and the man suffered the consequences.

      I’m actually more or less in agreement with nutbastard on this point.

      • If you think this is how firefighting should work then you probably lean libertarian.
      • If you think it would have been better if the situation played out differently (for example, the firefighters putting out the blaze before it began destroying the responsible, fee-paying neighbor’s property) then you probably lean socialist, at least for some services.

    3. yes, this is libertarianism and it’s beautiful. the man failed to take personal responsibility, and the man suffered the consequences.

      The great part about Libertarianism is arguing for it eventually reaches around to the circular argument that “the Libertarian approach leads to the best outcomes because it leads to the Libertarian outcome, and those are the best.” It’s as unfalsifiable as any pseudoscience.

      An actual reasonable person would look at this situation and say, “Wow, the Libertarian approach, when carried to its logical conclusion, leads to a really bad outcome.” But the Libertarian view exemplified above doesn’t actually care about the outcome… to this person, the outcome is “beautiful” only because of the Libertarian process that led to that outcome.

      In other words, following this logic, any outcome that followed the Libertarian process would have been deemed “beautiful” — even if it had led to fireman standing around letting somebody’s house burn (oh wait, that IS what happened).

      More reasonable policy analysts actually care about outcomes. Like for example, suppose instead that this homeowner instead lived in a municipality that simply levied a tax on all property in its jurisdiction sufficient to fund a fire department, that fire department was charged with fighting all fires in its jurisdiction, and had mutual aid agreements with its neighbors to handle larger problems. (This is how it works in most places in the USA.)

      Then this family’s house might have been saved, and THAT would have been a beautiful outcome. If instead this approach led to houses being left to burn, a reasonable policy analyst would conclude that something was wrong with the policy and attempt to change it.

  • I hope the guy has homeowner’s insurance and his insurance company sues the snot out of the fire dept. for negligence.

  • Libertardarianism is a bogus political concept, and Ayn Rand was a sociopath. The fact anyone takes it seriously only shows that most people in America know jack-shit about history.

    We’ve been there, done that. American history is rife with stories of corporate malfeasance that led directly to the creation of regulatory agencies and civil services.

    What the fuck do these people want the US to be? A third-world banana republic? Thanks to the actions of Wall St. lobbyists, we’re well on our way there.

    I think given the choice between life in Europe or the Wild West, most people would opt for Europe.

  • The level and quality of public government services is not high. This is part of the charm of the place.

    To quote Tom T. Hall: “if you don’t like what we do here, don’t come here, cause we’ll kick your ass.”

  • “It would’ve been nice to save this house, but failure to do a nice thing is different from doing the wrong thing. “

    I’m going to have to remember that next time I see someone getting robbed. Thanks, Conveniently Disposable Morality!

    “I don’t want the safety net, and i don’t want to pay for yours either. however, because i already am, you’ve already broken my dream, because now i have someone else to blame for why my paycheck is what it is. “

    *sigh* So many Libertarians forget that the reason they get paid is because they pay taxes.

    How’s about this. Everyone who hates government involvement, get off the Internet. Since the tech originated in tax-funded halls, every time you view a web page, you are using a service provided to you by the government (and then connected to you for a monthly fee).

    Also, don’t work for any company. Y’see, companies get tax incentives to hire people.

    Then get rid of your car. Stop eating anything grown in America, and maybe tell your aging parents and knowledge-hungry children to go screw themselves.

    Taxes, ladies and gentlemen.

    1. Daedalus: “*sigh* So many Libertarians forget that the reason they get paid is because they pay taxes.”

      Wrng. Wtht th tx brdn, w’d b fr t d whtvr md s hppy. nstd, s wg-rnrs hv t crry y nn-prdctv lbrl nttlmnt prsts, t.

      “The gubmint” doesn’t have any money, but someone has to pay the bills. Too often, the people who actually create value pay a disproportionate amount compared to the services received.

      This city probably previously paid for rural fire service for everyone in range. Now that they’re burdened with a crapload of entitlements they have to provide to people who don’t provide for their own needs, they’ve cut back the fire service.

      1. The money you use is made by the government. The only reason it has value is because you know someone will always be willing to take it: the government, in the form of taxes. I know they keep out competitive currencies, but please, the type of freedom you are talking about has been seen and turns out to provide very little in the way of real options.

      2. Yet another example of bias and a lack of understanding. I often wonder if one causes the other, or if they share a root cause.

        Anyway, without a certain amount of social cooperation, civilization cannot exist. Basic education, law enforcement, national defense, sanitation, transportation infrastructure, monetary systems – all dependent upon social cooperation. While the specific implementations may be different, this has worked pretty much the same way for the last 6000 years, probably more.

        People pitch in together to work towards common goals and solve common problems. Without any social cooperation, we are just primates living in caves, trying not to get eaten by predators.

        If this is the type of life you desire, feel free to move to Antarctica or find some rock of an unowned island, because those are pretty much the only places you can go in the entire world to avoid being caught up in what you call Socialism.

        I call it civilization

    2. > *sigh* So many Libertarians forget that the reason
      > they get paid is because they pay taxes.

      I always assumed that the reason I get paid is that I had worked for that salary? Why should anyone pay me because I pay taxes?

    3. I’m going to have to remember that next time I see someone getting robbed. Thanks, Conveniently Disposable Morality!

      I think the best option is to offer to help in exchange for only taking half their money. It’s a bargain for both of you!

  • There is one final question I would ask every single job applicant to the fire department. “If a house was burning and you were summoned in your official firefighter capacity (complete with all proper and necessary equipment) to extinguish the fire, would you extinguish the fire?”

    If you get a blank stare and an “uhhhh… yes!” response, you’re hired. If you get a “yes, but” answer or “well, if…” answer or any other possible concoction, get the fuck out of my face.

  • Um, property taxes are paid to the county, not to the municipality. The fact that they’re in an unincorporated area shouldn’t affect access to tax-supported services.

    1. The county government chose not to allocate their tax money toward a fire department, resulting in the situation where unincorporated areas are either covered by a nearby municipal department (in some cases such as this one, by subscription) or not covered at all. Post-pay arrangements don’t work, either.

      See this presentation from 2008:

      All fire departments in Obion County charge a $500.00 fee per call in rural areas, but collections are less than 50% and the fire departments have no way of legally collecting the charge. Therefore, the service was provided at the expense of the municipal tax payer.

      Another important quote:

      On January 19, 1987, the Obion County Commission passed a resolution establishing an Obion County Fire Department, but no action was taken to implement the resolution. Therefore, Obion County has a county fire department on paper, but is unmanned, unfunded and not operational.

  • “Wrong. Without the tax burden, we’d be free to do whatever made us happy. Instead, us wage-earners have to carry you non-productive liberal entitlement parasites, too.”

    Without taxes paying for national defense, we could be speaking Russian (or maybe Japanese?) at this point. Or at least French.

    The reason there is a United States is because of taxes.

    I would gladly pay .13 to make sure your house doesn’t burn down, and someone doesn’t kill you, and so that you can have a car and eat, and so your parents retain some independence, and so your children can learn long division.

    Why would you not do the same for me, or my parents, or my children?

    And if you do not want to do the same, why would I want to live in a country with you?

    1. Bingo.

      One step further, if you are willing to stand by and let my home burn down, my family to be robbed/murdered etc, what incentive do I have to not club you like a harp seal for the betterment of my family?

  • “I always assumed that the reason I get paid is that I had worked for that salary? Why should anyone pay me because I pay taxes?”

    The system that allows you to work for a salary — the system that enables you to learn the basic math and writing skills, and even the more advanced skills, that you need to be able to have a job, understand an employment contract, and budget your salary, the system that allows whoever signs your paychecks to benefit by hiring you, the system that enables the peace wherein transactions for necessities and luxuries can occur, the system that keeps competition alive, loans flowing, and retirement a possibility — would not exist if there were no taxes.

    Every time you collect a paycheck, you reap the benefits of living in America, of having a network of human beings that you are connected to helping you to both produce something useful and consume useful products yourself.

    I suppose this is less true if you are perhaps Amish.

    But since your are using the internet, I suspect you are not.

    If I am wrong, happy Rumspringa.

    1. > The system that allows you to work for a salary

      The market, you mean? ^_^

      But, joking aside, with that explanation you gave I now can understand the point you wanted to make, that a certain amount of centralized infrastructure can be the most efficient way of allocation.

      But this, as others have pointed out, is no such case. This people’s house is way outside of town, so if it does burn down, no other people’s houses are in danger. Therefore, he can be given the possibility to opt into the fire system or not to, with only consequences for himself. It would be different if the house would be in a densely populated area, where fires spread from building to building – there it would be in the other people’s interest to extinguish his burning house regardless of whether or not he paid for the fire brigade, since they have an interest in saving their own houses.

  • So…

    The County is supposed to have a fire department and doesn’t. The County is hauling in about 1/2 million a year MORE by charging a fee than they are by going to a tax based system.

    Now, the above quote from 2008 about services at the cost of the municipal taxpayer? Certainly not a fair thing and I can understand people wanting to change it. However, the County government has the money to be paying for each of those calls based on fees or property taxes.

    Of course, taxes would’ve been a far more FAIR way to do things. The fee is far more lucrative. Thing about this for a moment. The COUNTY collects these funds and pays money to the municipalities based on calls.

    How much money is getting hauled in here. Once businesses are factored in we’re looking at close to a million in fees per year. I’d be REALLY curious to see how many fire department responses there are out in the county every year.

    Even using teh above mentioned $500 as a baseline (versus something really big) you can bet the county is hauling in a profit.

    1. “Even using teh above mentioned $500 as a baseline (versus something really big) you can bet the county is hauling in a profit”

      Or pissing it away on incompetent management, graft, or some other stupid waste of money. This is Tennessee we’re talking about, not Minnesota.

      1. Exactly. In as depressed an area as we are speaking of, over a half a million dollars is vanishing every year. That isn’t just mismanagement. Sure, that isn’t Missing reconstruction money in Iraq big…but for a COUNTY in TN? That’s huge.

  • In places like Detroit where the economy has tanked, there are city blocks full of abandoned and repo’d houses, with maybe 1 or 2 houses where people are still living. Under this township’s laws, how big a fire do you suppose you would get if squatters accidentally set one of those vacant houses on fire?

    I am pleased to be in an area where I pay my taxes so that both I and my neighbors get good roads, clean water, and yes, fire and police protection as necessary. ESPECIALLY if my neighbors can’t afford to pony up this month/year.

  • Oddly enough, among all the defenders of the fire department, there’s no one who’s said, “I’ve been in this situation before. I chose not to pay the fee and lost everything, but you know, I deserved it and don’t regret a thing.” Somehow it’s always the other guy.

  • “The market, you mean? ^_^”

    The concept of a market and the concept of citizenship (and attendant taxes) are meshed deeply with each other, yes. :)

    “. This people’s house is way outside of town, so if it does burn down, no other people’s houses are in danger. Therefore, he can be given the possibility to opt into the fire system or not to, with only consequences for himself. It would be different if the house would be in a densely populated area, where fires spread from building to building – there it would be in the other people’s interest to extinguish his burning house regardless of whether or not he paid for the fire brigade, since they have an interest in saving their own houses.”

    It is in my interest to make sure my neighbor’s house doesn’t burn down, even if it doesn’t risk my own house.

    Because if he has a home, he is more likely to need, say, the furniture I make, or the refrigerators I sell. He is also more likely to have children, who I can maybe sell birthday cakes to, as a cake-maker. Not to take anything away from homebuilders in the region, he is more likely to build another home in the region, or improve on his existing home, and, if the community provides for them, the children are more likely to build their own homes here, too (knowing it is a place that provides a good upbringing for children). Furthermore, a town with fewer burnt down houses is more attractive to outside businesses, perhaps from Union City, who might further improve the economics of the region.

    As it is, this scenario has created homelessness, grief, and poverty, which frequently increase crime, which decreases attractiveness of the town, which makes it more likely to become (more) economically depressed.

    We are all interconnected, and we cannot afford to live under the comforting delusion that we are not responsible for each other. Taxes are a way of acknowledging that the nation is E Plurubus Unum, that the many of us are all together, helping each other to become greater.

    We forget that, and, of course, divided we fall.

    1. > It is in my interest to make sure my neighbor’s house doesn’t burn down, even if it doesn’t risk my own house. Because if he has a home, he is more likely to need, say, the furniture I make…

      OK, so let’s assume it is in my interest to pay for a fire department to save my future clients’ houses. But what if for the same amount of money spent on fire departments I could either save one isolated house and possibly sell furniture to one houseowner, or I could save, say, three houses in town and possibly sell thrice as much?

  • “if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck.”

    Or, like the Mob sez:

    “Yeah. We woodint want nuttin’ bad ta happin to youse house. Dat wood be a shame.”

  • As always, the case involved has several shades of gray. Most people would like to think that if a truck full of firefighters is near a burning house, those firefighters will attempt to fight that fire. Thing is, though they might get free coffees whenever they visit the donut shop, firefighters aren’t customarily handed free equipment and training, nor are they given free room and board when they’re not sleeping at the fire house. Fire departments must be paid for. Even a volunteer service needs hoses and trucks and fuel and equipment and a place to keep all that stuff, and all of that costs money.

    The above-linked article from NWTN Today gives more info about the setup, and about whether the Cranicks were given every opportunity to buy into the subscription:

    “[South Fulton city manager Jeff] Vowell said people always think they will never be in a situation where they will need rural fire protection, but he said City of South Fulton personnel actually go above and beyond in trying to offer the service. He said the city mails out notices to customers in the specified rural coverage area, with coverage running from July 1 of one year to July 1 the next year.
    At the end of the enrollment month of July, the city goes a step further and makes phone calls to rural residents who have not responded to the mail-out.
    “These folks were called and notified,” Vowell said. “I want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to get it and be aware it’s available. It’s been there for 20 years, but it’s very important to follow up.”
    Mayor Crocker added, “It’s my understanding with talking with the firefighters that these folks had received their bill and they had also contacted them by phone.”
    “My worst nightmare is that, for whatever reason, you don’t respond to someone who isn’t (a rural fire service member). That’s why we’re so diligent and adamant,” Vowell said. “No one wants what happened yesterday. I don’t want it, the fire department doesn’t want it, the (city commission) doesn’t want it.”

    It’s an agonizing situation for everyone. If your house is on fire, you’d pay any amount you could for it to be saved. But if you run a fire department in an area whose tax revenues do not fully fund your operations, and you overreach your mandate by extinguishing every last fire within driving range without seeking payment, you would soon bankrupt your operation. Too, if subscribers know that they’re covered whether they pay or not, what small percentage of them would continue to pay?

    I’m not what anyone would call a potential member of the U.S. Libertarian party; I like paying taxes and I think a social safety net is a decent role for government to play. So my solution would be for areas like unincorporated Obion County to pay up and establish a countywide fire department. If they can’t or won’t do that, then this subscription model seems to be the best alternative. And when you thus “privatize” what should be, in my mind, a tax-revenue-funded municipal utility, then you kinda give up any guarantee of your firefighters being motivated solely by a sense of altruistic civic duty, or the sanctity of life, limb and property, or other such high-minded, selfless (but unfunded) hogwash.

    I am reminded of San Diego’s Cedar Fire of October 2003. The city had been leasing its firefighting helicopter from Kachina Aviation in Idaho, and with a tightening budget, had apparently decided “who needs an expensive firefighting helicopter, anyway?” The city let the lease expire and the helicopter went back to Idaho, two days before the largest fire in recorded California history broke out.

    Pay your taxes, people. Or take the consequences with a smile.

  • To all you “personal responsibility” types, since when is unwillingness to pay one’s fair share of running a just and humane society “personal responsibility.” It’s not just some airy-fairy philosophy but hard-edged fact of life- that if everyone in a society is selfish, they each have a lot less materially than if they share to some extent, only the fantasy that “I’m good at business, and I really got one over that other guy.” That’s the American fantasy, because no matter how sharp you are in dealing, there’s always someone sharper than you.

  • I’m not a libertarian; I love my tax-funded fire department. But I do understand why the firefighters let this house burn: they need operating money coming in every month, and people are not going to pay them if they’ll put out a fire without that yearly fee.

    Besides, nobody was hurt, and the only probable selfish libertarian in this story, Crainck, got to learn a lesson about living in a cheap low-tax, low-services “utopia”. You’re making him out to be the victim, but he chose to live outside the town limits, not pay the town property tax and not receive the town services. And people like him elected not to have a tax-funded fire service in the county.

    To clear up some misconceptions here, note that the fire department would have saved anyone trapped in the building. Saving lives is obviously the #1 priority. Also, the fire department called Crainck repeatedly offering coverage, and he declined as recently as July. He thought he could skip the fee and they would help him anyway. The fire department was not there to gloat, they were there to make sure the fire didn’t spread to a subscriber’s property. Finally, this is in no way a “protection racket”.

  • And I want to add that I think everyone should have fire coverage, and it should be paid for by taxes that scale according to incoming, property value, etc. And of course it’s free for the poorest people. I think anything less is uncivilized.

    However, this county democratically opted out of that system. They get a little tax break, and pay a flat rate for their services regardless of income. Their poorest get screwed over, and then we get situations like this. This fire is on the cheapskate libertarians living in the county.

    1. Actually, the county voted in 1987 to start a County Fire Department. The County just has never funded it…. and yet they collect about a million in fees. Interesting ehh?

  • you may be content to be coddled through life, but i am not. I don’t want the safety net, and i don’t want to pay for yours either. however, because i already am, you’ve already broken my dream, because now i have someone else to blame for why my paycheck is what it is. you’ve forced me to point my finger at someone else, and to me, this is unforgivable.

    Grandiose delusional ramblings, narcissism, petulant selfishness. You’ve captured Libertarianism in a nutshell. Time to go hunter gathering with Ludwig, Murray and Ayn…

  • I feel bad for them but I hope they got house insurance! Some plans may not even pay out because they opted out of fire insurance!

  • Hi Libertarians,
    You all seem to forget that there already is such a paradise that you seem to wish for. Somalia is that fantastic place. There is no government to tax you. None of your hard earned money will fond a tax-run police, fire fighting, military, health, schools etc. If you want protection you have to provide it for yourself or from one of the many private organizations (locally called clans or militia). What are you waiting for? The plane ticket will soon be paid for, from all the money you save in taxes.

  • It still cost money to pay the firemen to watch the house burn down so not putting it out was just mean spirited and punitive. There is also the cost of denying the firemen the experience in putting out fires, and it may have actually cost less to put it out because they could have left sooner.

    It wouldn’t break my heart to see someone take an eye for an eye and torch city hall.

    1. Mirch:
      “It wouldn’t break my heart to see someone take an eye for an eye and torch city hall.”
      You didn’t even think that through for a second.

      I don’t think many people are shilling for libertarianism. I see people pointing this out as a downside to not having a government-funded fire department.

      1. It’s not what I would do, though. I’d have packages of marshmallows and hot dogs sent to the fire department and the mayor’s office.

    2. Mitch, I don’t believe the news articles linked to above say that the firemen stood around, thumbs up their fannies, just to watch the place burn. They didn’t come out to the place until the subscription-paid neighbor’s property was threatened. And then they spent their time extinguishing the fire on that property.

      It’s a bit much to assume that the firefighters in question enjoyed letting the Cranicks’ house burn, just to show what happens when you don’t cross their palms with silver.

      They’re obligated to put out all the fires within the city limits. The firefighting services are extended to the unincorporated county on a fee basis, since there is no county-level fire department. The city’s fire department is neither equipped nor funded nor obligated to fight fires outside the city limits on properties that do not subscribe to the $75/annum fee. Every property owner out there knows this, whether they get the annual letter(s) offering the service, or they get the phone call(s) when they don’t respond to the letter.

      *Of course* it’s a bad setup. But until they get their countywide shit together and put together a countywide fire department, then you either have this system in place, or one where the fire department runs itself into the ground by trying to cover an area larger than it’s funded to cover.

      Or you enlist all the neighbors in a bucket brigade like it’s the 18th century.

      1. The fire wouldn’t have spread the the neighbor’s property in the first place if it had been put out promptly. With dry conditions and strong winds the original fire which was allowed to keep burning could have become a large wildfire. So would it be such a bad policy to protect property and human life first and settle up with the money later?

        1. I don’t think it’s up to us to armchair-quarterback the way Obion County manages its fire risk (unless you live there; I don’t), but the fact remains that the residents of the county have seen fit to put this system in place rather than chipping in for a countywide fire department. If the nearest fire department sent me a letter or telephoned to ask for my $75 subscription fee, I’d certainly feel moved to ask, “You mean… fire protection isn’t covered by my property taxes?” And when they affirm that yes, sure enough, I gotta pay the fee if I want to be covered, then I gotta realize that not paying the fee means I have to take full responsibility for the fire protection of my own house. So when I forget to take my Jiffy Pop off the stove and the house catches fire, I’m certainly gonna call the fire department and ask (no, *beg*) for help. And if it comes, I’m gonna give those people down at the station a free pancake breakfast every Saturday for the rest of the year. Maybe beyond.

          But if they decline to come, there’s no way I can hold that against them. They did, in fact, try to talk me into paying. $75? Hell, that’s a tank and a half of gas. And fire coverage isn’t exactly a luxury, is it?

          There really is only so much dipshittitude that a local government should be expected to subsidize.

          And you think that setting fire to South Fulton’s City Hall is a “fair target”? Even Cranick’s own son contented himself with giving the chief a pop in the jaw. No doubt he’ll be pleased to learn that you give your moral permission for him to burn down the firehouse/police station/public works depot/city hall that all occupy that building.

          1. You don’t have to agree with me and, frankly, I don’t really care if you do.

            Did you ever learn about combustion in chemistry class? Fires start small and get bigger and harder to put out if there is more combustible material and oxygen available. If that hillbilly fire department keeps letting houses burn down it’s just a matter of time before one of those fires turns into something that they can’t control and someone gets hurt or the homes of paying customers burn down.

            A fire department isn’t supposed to be a for profit business. It is a public service that protects human life and property. Protect human life and property first and worry about the money later. It’s the right thing to do.

          2. Don’t care if you don’t care. Just don’t like to see these guys misrepresented as money-grubbing sadistic thugs who deserve to have their own firehouse burned down.

            Take a look at the map of South Fulton, if you haven’t already. Once you get out of town, the houses are quite far apart. The Rural Fire Protection Service extends outward from the fire house to a 5-mile radius, but you don’t have to get much more than a mile out before you’re completely in the sticks. I am not qualified to judge whether the risk of out-of-control wildfire is as high in northwestern Tennessee as it is in Southern California, where I’m from. But I expect the South Fulton Fire Dept to have a qualified opinion about whether or not it’s safe to let a particular fire burn.

            And please remember that they’re not running a for-profit business there. Maybe there should be an investigation, as Ceronomus above suggests, in order to see where the tax revenues and fees go. Maybe the 19 firefighters in South Fulton are pulling down salaries that would embarrass the City Council of Bell, CA.

            Greed doesn’t enter into this. Operating costs do. If you’ve read all 238 comments above, as I have, along with all the linked articles, as I have, not only would your eyes be as sore as mine but you’d know that whenever they’ve tried to collect the firefighting expenses from non-subscribers after the fact, the department has generally managed to collect, on average, about half of the costs associated with putting out those non-covered fires. Which isn’t surprising, since a lot of the people who are expected to pay have just incurred some pretty expensive damage to their homes.

            In general, fire departments are not charities. They don’t exist through the largesse of millionaire philanthropists or church groups. They are “departments” of a city or county government, and thus founded, equipped, staffed, and maintained through the expenditure of tax revenues, just like the Public Works department or the police force. The people who reside within that tax source and who contribute to its revenues are the ones who expect to be served by it without further cost. Those who live *outside* the limits of that tax-stream’s jurisdiction have no such expectation.

            Look at the map again. Suppose the town of North Fulton, through horrible financial mismanagement, had to liquidate and sell off its fire departments. Maybe the South Fulton boys would extend their coverage north. Of course, by the time you’re a mile north of their firehouse, you’re in Kentucky, not Tennessee. Would they be cold-hearted, murderous bastards if they decided to ignore the burning buildings north of the state line?

            Well, in fact, they *don’t* ignore them. From the South Fulton FD’s website: “Member of the West Tennessee and Western Kentucky Mutual Aid Pack, and Automatic Mutual Aid with City of Fulton, Kentucky on all structure fires within the corporate city limits.”

            Yeah, they put out fires outside their own state, just as the the Fulton, KY fire departments are expected to help them out right back. That’s “Mutual Aid” for you.

            But that can only go so far. A line has to be drawn. The literal line is 5 miles away from the station, outside of which even the Rural Fire Protection Service is not available. Within that line, you have to pay the fee, just as the residents of the incorporated township pay via their local taxes.

            Nowhere is there any evidence that anyone’s turning a profit from this arrangement. But the sad fact is that a 5-truck, 19-man fire department can’t be responsible for every structure fire outside the town limits without charging for that service. If they don’t have to charge one family, then they can’t charge any of them, and so a huge chunk of their operating budget goes away. And if that happens, they won’t even have 5 trucks and 19 men anymore.

            But then I guess they can just use the firefighting pixies and elves who are just pleased as punch to extinguish any and all conflagrations, no matter how incendiary, at absolutely no cost to anyone. Their rainbow-vomiting Pegasus mounts, you see, happen to excrete copious amounts of fire-retardant urine.

          3. The homeowner offered to pay the entire cost of putting out the fire and they still refused to put it out. Protect life and property first and figure out the money later. If they want to bill the homeowner for the cost and put a lien on the house if he doesn’t pay, fine, but just letting someone’s house burn to the ground when you have the resources to put it out is completely unacceptable.

            I can’t believe people are defending a fire department that would let someone’s home burn to the ground.

      2. Anyone notice how the comments in favor of the fire department’s inaction keep using the term “subscription”? Like itunes . . .
        Like a paywall separating off the county. Creepy if you ask me.

  • 1) Mrs. Cranick says that the firefighters were just doing their job. While this is a true, it’s generally accepted that one should act like a fucking human being, in addition to fulfilling their duties and obligations at work.

    2) I may have missed it, but I have yet to see the particular reason that Cranicks didn’t pay into this ridiculous fire protection scheme. Are the adults cheapskates, are they poor, is a wage-earner unemployed? Wait, it doesn’t matter, we can just assume they’re greedy jerks and deserve to have their house burn down for no reason.

    3) To all my fellow commenters suffering from a severe lack of empathy and common decency, you do realize that the Cranicks are mentioned as a family, correct? Generally this implies children are present, or the technical term would be ‘couple’. The destruction of a child’s home and belongings is a small price to pay to teach daddy a lesson. Just send over some Ayn Rand CliffNotes for the kids, and everything will be made better in the end.

    So in summary, to any one of you who think the fire company should have refused to intervene: you are horrible, awful people. I do not care what your politics are, your philosophy, your leanings or what you pay for fire protection. You are poor excuses for human beings, and most of you are exploiting a tragic event to shill for your ridiculous Objectivism, Libertarianism, or whatever particular fairy tale land you waltz around in. Congratulations, and for the sake of your children, do have a certified electrician check your home wiring.

  • All I can say is:
    Thank you U.S.A! Thank you for showing us how things should NOT be done. We in the rest of the world thank you for demonstrating with your own lives and property how broken your system really is.

    You really are a great service to the people of the planet earth

  • So let’s say someone’s in the house. You forgot to pay. That poor guy dies. Who’s responsible, you the homeowner and relative of that guy who didn’t pay up or those firemen who refused to put out the fire?

  • I wonder what this reply page would have been like if people had actually read the article before responding.

  • I hope that each one of the firemen involved, each one of the people on the board and the mayor are paid back for their kindness 10 fold. I would hang my head in shame for doing such a thing…$75.00 paid or not. If 1 cent of state or county tax money is involved in supporting the fire company then the “Fee” can not be used as an excuse. When you purchase fire insurance (Homeowners)a percentage goes back to the local government which in turn goes to the fire department.
    On top of that you idiots make it a political argument…what the hell ever happened to helping each other, being there for your neighbors and doing what is right??? The country is going to hell because everyone wants to make any problem political instead of making it what it is, a breakdown in the fabric of what made this country special. Its pretty sad that a person lost his home and all of his belongings when he offered to pay “All Expenses”, not just $75.00.

  • Mirch:[sic]
    “It wouldn’t break my heart to see someone take an eye for an eye and torch city hall.”
    You didn’t even think that through for a second.

    Actually I did. The mayor said “The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck.”

    If someone wants to carry out a direct act of retribution for the extreme and brutal policy of letting someone’s house burn to the ground over a fee, then the place where that policy is made is a fair target. Of course I would hope that they would make sure the building is unoccupied first.

    They’re very lucky no one was hurt by the fire. Letting it burn until it threatened the neighbor’s property was a stupid risk to take. The right way to keep a fire from spreading is to put it out as soon as possible. That fire could have easily become too big to get under control. Why take a such a chance?

  • This reminds me of Hugh Laurie returning to England to find a privatised police force, represented by Stephen Fry:

  • The car insurance analogy and the ant and grass hopper analogy are way off base. It costs way less to fight a fire than it does to replace a home and all of a families possessions. And the homeowner offer to pay whatever it takes, not just $75. These so called firefighters simply chose to let someones home burn because they didn’t like him. They are criminals and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If nothing else, the neighbor who did pay should sue for the risk, not just the damages.

  • Anon #224 says: “And if they stopped paying fire insurance after you moved in, at least you have the privilege of living with true freedom before a neighbor’s fire destroys all your things.”

    Again, you make no sense.
    Your fire insurance will certainly protect your house in the event that your neighbor’s house burns, even if the neighbor does not have insurance.
    Look at how car insurance works, for instance.
    In addition, the neighbor is liable for damage he caused to your property, which gives incentive to be careful on his side.

    Also, if people are that concerned about their neighbors changing their mind, being careless and dropping their insurance, there are plenty of voluntary solutions: mutual commitment, fire insurance insurance (like title insurance), home-owner’s associations, bulk insurance for a block of houses, sending your firefighters to your neighbor’s burning house (out of charity or concern for your house), etc.
    None of those require a monopoly service.

    1. Your fire insurance will certainly protect your house in the event that your neighbor’s house burns, even if the neighbor does not have insurance.

      That’s nonsense. The best protection for your house is not letting other houses around it burn. If they do, there is a better chance your house will follow, firefighters or not. And I know this is a hard concept for libertarians, but there is more that you can lose in a fire than can be replaced by money.

      1. > Anon #241 says “The best protection for your house is not letting other houses around it burn.”

        Maybe you should have read my comment. I agree that your neighbors not having fire insurance increases risk, which will cause insurance cost rises. But your neighbor’s liability and the incentive of your insurance company to minimize their cost will mitigate this situation.

        > “And I know this is a hard concept for libertarians, but there is more that you can lose in a fire than can be replaced by money.”

        I suggest you educate yourself before making offensive remarks. Obviously you don’t understand libertarianism or the free-market if you think it makes people more materialistic or centered around money.

        Maybe the cause of the angst against libertarianism in the above thread comes from this naive mistake: you see the word “fee” and you think “free-market”.
        In reality, the foundation of the free market is simply voluntary cooperation, as opposed to government coercion and force. It’s not about money or no money. The free-market is fully compatible with different motivations (artists, the “hero” firefighter, open-source contributors, the friend, etc.).

        The difference is that we make no assumption that firefighter “ought” to do, in some moral sense.
        Individuals should behave how they want to, guided by individual choice and the culture. You cannot morally force someone to expose himself to danger to help you; but some people will put themselves in danger to help you, it’s their choice. It all depends on what those people value (ie. what satisfies them).

        See the paragraph on “capitalism deadens the soul” in Common objections to capitalism.

        1. It’s not about money or no money.

          My thought was that insurance and liability are. If you think those are enough to offset potential losses from fires, which seems to be the libertarian position here, you obviously aren’t considering those more important than money.

          1. Anon #246

            Again, you’re putting words in the “libertarian position”. The point is not to offset the losses, but to prevent fires as early as possible.

            My point about liability is not that it makes up for your loss, but that it creates incentive to your neighbors to get insurance.
            The point about insurance, which firefighting services falls under, is that insurance companies have incentives to stop the fire as early as possible (it’s cheaper for them to do the right thing).

            There is no “risk zero” in this world, but when people organize themselves voluntarily, the resulting incentives will go the right way to increase well-being and reach acceptable trade-off to all the parties involved. Coerced monopolies will not do that.

            And that’s not even accounting for institutional innovations that develop as society develops. For instance, the business of insurance is only a few centuries old. There’s no reason to think such innovations are not still ahead of us.

  • Isn’t it time we simply start exterminating anyone who doesn’t pump money into the private system?

    A libertarian dream-world, I suppose.

  • Every person should be removed from the firefighting jobs, positions, posts etc., who were involved with this backward, political, hillbilly mentality. You, and Mayor Cocker, have lost your dignity and respect and have disgraced the firefighter position and mayoral you hold. Really. The mayor endorsed the actions of the fire-watching pack rats. Disgusting. Outside the politics of that small piss-ant town, that mayor would be immediately removed from office as would each and every fire-watcher. Disgraceful.

  • A lot of commentators here seem to be using this to complain about how bad it would be to have a private [insert any service governments offer]. Despite the fact that the fire department that did this was a public/state one.

    Now you could definitely makes arguments for and against both public and private fire departments.
    But what bugs me is they’re not realy looking at the specifics of this incident. Which in my eyes wouldn’t have turned out that way if it had been a private or volunteer one, at least in this specific case.

    They completely forget or ignore the fact that with fire department there is, and traditionally has been for a while now, a mix of private volunteer services and publicly funded state fire departments.
    And it’s not just an occasional thing, either. There are many, many volunteer firefighters both as independent departments as within public ones.

    Fact of the matter is that *both* private/volunteer and public fire departments generally do a pretty good job and don’t pull this kind of shenanigans.

    I think only the non-private non-mandatory funded government fire department that did this would have acted like they did.
    You might claim that was a “no pay, no service” thing, but if it was a for profit department they would have started putting out the fire when he offered money. Business is business for them. The other non-public form, not for profit volunteers, would have done what they volunteered for even if the person hadn’t donated to them.

    It seems to me the major (and firefighter) took a self-righteous “you earned it” opinion. A politically/philosophically motivated opinion.
    If it was a private company they’d only care about money and him offering it like he did would’ve prevented it.
    If it was a volunteer department they just want to help and they’d just do it. Volunteers/charities who ask for help or money help people who don’t help or give all the time.

    My native language isn’t English and I’m having trouble phrasing my thoughts at the moment. So if something doesn’t make sense or is hard to read sorry about that.

    It goes without saying this was just a terrible thing to do.

  • This is an abomination. The correct policy would be to calculate the true cost of responding to a non-payers house fire (including overhead, etc) and then on the scene you can negotiate a direct-pay option, say $3000 to $5000 that allows for the immediate extinguishing of the fire for people that didn’t pay the $75.

    It’s expensive, but presumably cheaper than losing the entire house. Deliberately allowing a house to burn to the ground is like allowing criminals to victimize an innocent simply because they didn’t pay their “police tax”.

    Emergency fees should not be optional, that’s all.

  • The names off all the fire non-fighters who sat by and did nothing should be made public so they can take personal credit for their despicable douchebaggery… They bring disgrace to the brotherhood and sisterhood of firefighters everywhere….. and the number of people who think it’s fine to let someone’s home and pets burn out of spite is a national disgrace… you’re all sick in the head and need serious help. The name of South Fulton,Tennessee will live in infamy and shame.

  • Ok what if someone had been inside the house? All these arguements stating the homeowner chose not to pay the fee and if they had put out the fire it somehow would have encouraged other not to pay is ridiculous because Im sure there must be a stipulation involving the loss of human life. Would that of bankrupted the Firehouse? Saving a life? Or getting there pants sued off if they stood around and watched someone die? And really what is $75 doing when they could charge a handsome several thousand dollar fine to put out fires that were not prepayed against? If its truely about making money and making sure the fire department has proper funds the best financial answer would be to instill heavy fines rather then just collect there measely $75. I am never going to Tennessee and really hope they run this mayor outta town on a rail just for being a jerk.

  • Anyone who thinks it is okay to let someone’s house burn down because they did not pay $75 dollars needs to examine their values and their brain. People really make me sick; there is no justification for this event.

  • I am so appauled by this. You have to be a very inhuman person to watch someone lose everything they have worked for over a $75.00 fee. This reminds me of the mafia on TV where you have to pay protection money inorder to keep from getting beat up. If I were these people I would sue the pants off of everyone involved.

  • I know no one will likely read this, as it’s old news at this point and you’ve all moved onto something else to be snarky about…but let me ask you…

    Those of you who think it was okay for the fire dept to allow this family’s home to burn to the ground over $75…now that you know his pets DIED in that fire, is it still okay with you? Or would it take the loss of a human life to make this no longer “okay”???

  • I do not understand the logic here. If I had paid the $75, and I called the fire department. “My neighbours house is burning. Quick, come put it out before it spreads to my house”. “Sorry sir but we cannot do that. We have to wait for your house to actually start burning before we actually start trying to put out the fire. Even if waiting will cause quite a lot of damage to your house”.

    Sounds like China from 100 years ago. There are quite a lot of period movies about firemen not putting out the fire if you didn’t pay the subscription.

  • those who stood there and watched a familys home go up in smoke dont deserve to be called fireman… thats completly against all veiws we stand for… what a bunch of assholes…over 75 dollars are you kidding me?

  • This is total bullshit. What’s next? Police protection “opt-in”? Let’s create a situation where I can still receive tickets and fines but if I don’t pay $75 and my house gets robbed the police say “That’s your tough luck.” Yeah that sounds fantastic, what the hell kind of nation are we? Mad profiteers with our eyes on the dollar no matter the cost in dignity and humanity.

    I got a better question, Where the hell did this mans tax dollars go?!?! I’m sure he pays personal property tax, What the hell did that money go to? It didn’t go to help protect his personal property I can tell you that with certainty.

    What else can we privatize? How about roads, you pay a $75 “Right of Way” fee every year or you can’t use the County roads, lets do that to the parks downtown too, lets make kids pay $2 dollars to get into the town park and play on the swings and slides. This is a dangerous president to set and sicking from a humane point of view.

    The Fire Chief didn’t need his ass kicked near as much as the Mayor of this shitty little county, I would hate to live there.

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