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Rural Tennessee fire sparks conservative ideological debate


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Here's the short version of what happened: In rural Obion County, homeowners must pay $75 annually for services from the nearby city of South Fulton. If they don't pay the fee and their home catches fire, tough luck -- even if firefighters are positioned just outside the home with hoses at the ready.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20101005/pl_yblog_upshot/rural-tennessee-fire-sparks-conservative-ideological-debate

 

 

Considering some of the previous discussions regarding paying for local services this seemed pertinant.

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A friend of mine on FB also posted this article.

 

The thing is, the guy had paid the fee in years past. People don't just wake up one day and say, "Screw it, I'm going to Outback instead, we haven't had a fire yet!" This screams CHOICE, not GAMBLE. As in, pay this $75 fee or feed my kids this week. I don't care what some people say, $75 is a big deal to some families.

 

I think what happened is a horrible, horrible thing and skirts on extortion. I cannot imagine just standing there and listening to a family lose everything and doing NOTHING. I don't care if those firefighters were acting on orders. That is awful.

 

Also, if I call an ambulance, it comes no matter who or what I pay. If I don't have insurance to cover it, they send me a bill. Send the family a bill.

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Wonder what his insurance company is going to say.....if he has any. If I were an insurance company, I would decline a policy to someone who had no firefighting coverage.

 

I smell a lawsuit. I bet ambulance chasers for 5 counties are contacting this guy. I wonder if the FD texted their attorney while roasting their wienies.

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Wonder what his insurance company is going to say.....if he has any. If I were an insurance company, I would decline a policy to someone who had no firefighting coverage.

 

I smell a lawsuit. I bet ambulance chasers for 5 counties are contacting this guy. I wonder if the FD texted their attorney while roasting their wienies.

 

I'll bet the ambulance chaser will be roasting some weenies. ;)

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When dh was in college, his parents lost their house, because the city and county firefighters were argueing over whose jurisdiction the house was in. They lost everything. Put out the fire, and send someone a bill, but don't sit and watch it burn. Would they have gone in to rescue if anyone were trapped inside? Makes me sick.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20101005/pl_yblog_upshot/rural-tennessee-fire-sparks-conservative-ideological-debate

 

 

Considering some of the previous discussions regarding paying for local services this seemed pertinant.

 

I'm more than a little biased, having several fire fighters, both paid and volunteer on both sides of our family, going back four generations.

 

The ability to competently and safely put out fires doesn't come at the drop of a hat. Even volunteer fire departments have weekly drills and qualification training for new members. Paid and combo departments put even more money into training, safety equipment and the actual fire fighting equipment. My FIL is a fire chief. His department has been purchasing new vehicles, which take over a year to spec out, have built, test, return for warranty work, outfit, etc. The budget for 2009 for his department was over a half million dollars. That doesn't include the 2.2 MILLION DOLLARS in estimated savings received by having an active volunteer firefighter and EMS program.

 

FIL's department not only services their city (around 8k residents), but also provides advanced life support for the 11k residents in two neighboring lower income cities, limited EMS to several others and authomatic fire mutual aid to seven communities.

 

But the money has to come from somewhere. You can't purchase a 100k fire truck with the promise of maybe collecting money from a resident in the case of a fire. You can't send a firefighter to advanced rescue training with taxes you don't collect because those residents are outside your taxation area.

 

FIL and I discussed recently how people think that their communities can cut fire service, because they may have never made a fire call, seen a fire response on their street or think that they can avoid having a fire if they are just careful enough. But when the time comes to call 911, you are calling in several years worth of investment in equipment and training.

 

I'm sorry that a family lost their home. I know this is devastating. We had a fire in our apartment building a couple weeks back and I'm so happy that it was very minor. But I don't really understand a homeowner thinking he can opt out of paying for a service but still get the service.

 

Update: I will add that I imagine there is a lot more to the incident than what is being reported on. How involved was the fire when the department was called, etc. The department my inlaws live in lost two firefighters in a "simple" house fire a few years ago. The firefighters were both parents. Firefighting is a dangerous profession that requires a lot of funding for equipment and training. Communities that do mutual aid spend an enourmous amount of time working out the details of who responds when and who is in charge, not to mention how to coordinate different equipment, training and ability, and operating proceedures.

Edited by Sebastian (a lady)
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I'm more than a little biased, having several fire fighters, both paid and volunteer on both sides of our family, going back four generations.

 

The ability to competently and safely put out fires doesn't come at the drop of a hat. Even volunteer fire departments have weekly drills and qualification training for new members. Paid and combo departments put even more money into training, safety equipment and the actual fire fighting equipment. My FIL is a fire chief. His department has been purchasing new vehicles, which take over a year to spec out, have built, test, return for warranty work, outfit, etc. The budget for 2009 for his department was over a half million dollars. That doesn't include the 2.2 MILLION DOLLARS in estimated savings received by having an active volunteer firefighter and EMS program.

 

FIL's department not only services their city (around 8k residents), but also provides advanced life support for the 11k residents in two neighboring lower income cities, limited EMS to several others and authomatic fire mutual aid to seven communities.

 

But the money has to come from somewhere. You can't purchase a 100k fire truck with the promise of maybe collecting money from a resident in the case of a fire. You can't send a firefighter to advanced rescue training with taxes you don't collect because those residents are outside your taxation area.

 

FIL and I discussed recently how people think that their communities can cut fire service, because they may have never made a fire call, seen a fire response on their street or think that they can avoid having a fire if they are just careful enough. But when the time comes to call 911, you are calling in several years worth of investment in equipment and training.

 

I'm sorry that a family lost their home. I know this is devastating. We had a fire in our apartment building a couple weeks back and I'm so happy that it was very minor. But I don't really understand a homeowner thinking he can opt out of paying for a service but still get the service.

 

I know the fire department incurs expenses in both personnel and equipment. I understand that. Perhaps the $75 fee in this area needs to be added to the annual property tax. Then, a lien is able to be placed for failing to pay. Also, lots of people's taxes are handled through their mortgage. 1/12th is added to their mortgage payment every month and the mortgage holder pays the tax bill.

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I know the fire department incurs expenses in both personnel and equipment. I understand that. Perhaps the $75 fee in this area needs to be added to the annual property tax. Then, a lien is able to be placed for failing to pay. Also, lots of people's taxes are handled through their mortgage. 1/12th is added to their mortgage payment every month and the mortgage holder pays the tax bill.

 

Yes, but the mobile home that burned was in an area outside the taxation limits of the city that the fire department was from. The city does tax its residents and in return, provides fire services. Non-residents are allowed to opt in, they pay into the system and get fire services in return.

 

The family in question chose not to pay, but then expected that the fire department would provide services anyway.

 

If there is going to be blanket coverage in a rural area, then there needs to be a tax assessed by an entity with authority to tax there, like teh county. Then the county can contract with the city for mutual aid, or set up a fire services consortium of volunteer departments, etc.

 

Update: I'm not sure it was a mobile home.

Edited by Sebastian (a lady)
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If there is going to be blanket coverage in a rural area, then there needs to be a tax assessed by an entity with authority to tax there, like teh county. Then the county can contract with the city for mutual aid, or set up a fire services consortium of volunteer departments, etc.

 

That's what I mean. The county may want to consider having a tax for fire service in the unincorporated areas, with the funds being used to maintain volunteer fire departments or shuttled to paid city departments who pick up certain areas closest to their current fire district lines. Make it not an opt in thing but a mandatory sort of thing.

 

FWIW, I live in a rural area served by a VFD. Our "city" water, which is also rural, has a fee for the VFD, but it's used for equipment and training. The firefighters are all volunteers, and I respect and admire each of them for their willingness to put themselves in harm's way to serve our community.

Edited by dansamy
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Here's an interesting article about the situation.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2010/10/05/113824.htm

 

I think it is a travesty that this happened.

 

The county should have made arrangements with the fire departments within its borders to cover the unincorporated areas. All they had to do was assign residents to the nearest fire department and pay the $75 fee for each, and add it to the property tax bills.

 

The way the zero-tolerance system is administered, it allows no room for human error. These people lost everything, including their pets, in that fire. What happened to compassion? This is morally wrong.

 

I bet if the media highlight that the pets (dogs and a cat) were killed in the fire, a whole bunch of people will suddenly become compassionate.

Edited by RoughCollie
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And here is where they probably have standing for a lawsuit...

 

The Cranicks said they also forgot to pay their fire service fee on time about three years ago. But the fire department then did not hesitate to put out a chimney fire and let them pay the fee the next day.

 

The prior incidence sets a standard of reasonable expectation for emergency service DESPITE non-pre-payment -- and that payment for services rendered was acceptable after the fact. I expect that without a written policy change (to exclude services to those who had not pre-paid) that was clearly stated to these rural homeowners (and even that would be difficult to prove), a legal challenge could be mounted.

 

This type of suit would require a much, much lower standard of evidence -- and prior FD actions would more than likely be enough to prove the department did not act in accordance with an "unwritten contract" to assist homeowners who had not pre-paid for service and bill after the fact.

 

I would say, in light of the FD's prior actions, their current situation becomes quite indefensible morally and legally.

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And here is where they probably have standing for a lawsuit...

 

 

 

The prior incidence sets a standard of reasonable expectation for emergency service DESPITE non-pre-payment -- and that payment for services rendered was acceptable after the fact. I expect that without a written policy change (to exclude services to those who had not pre-paid) that was clearly stated to these rural homeowners (and even that would be difficult to prove), a legal challenge could be mounted.

 

This type of suit would require a much, much lower standard of evidence -- and prior FD actions would more than likely be enough to prove the department did not act in accordance with an "unwritten contract" to assist homeowners who had not pre-paid for service and bill after the fact.

 

I would say, in light of the FD's prior actions, their current situation becomes quite indefensible morally and legally.

 

Absolutely. I am absolutely furious over this. I have several ff's in my family (both paid and volunteer) and they are furious. Yes, they should have paid the $75 fee, but even if they hadn't how could the fd stand by and watch a family's home burn down and let their pets die without doing anything? It's just human decency. This family lost everything over $75. That's just stupid.

I heard something on the news earlier (we were in a public place though so I couldn't hear it well) that the insurance company doesn't want to pay because they say it is the fd's fault and they should pay. Has anyone heard this? If this is true, what is this family to do while they argue it out? This whole things just makes me so angry.

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Absolutely. I am absolutely furious over this. I have several ff's in my family (both paid and volunteer) and they are furious. Yes, they should have paid the $75 fee, but even if they hadn't how could the fd stand by and watch a family's home burn down and let their pets die without doing anything? It's just human decency. This family lost everything over $75. That's just stupid.

I heard something on the news earlier (we were in a public place though so I couldn't hear it well) that the insurance company doesn't want to pay because they say it is the fd's fault and they should pay. Has anyone heard this? If this is true, what is this family to do while they argue it out? This whole things just makes me so angry.

 

I believe the insurance company already wrote the family a check (per the article)... however I have heard that the insurance company is suing the fire department.

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In the OP's linked article, there are further links to the National Review Web writer's debate on the subject, essentially pitting the anti-government crowd (who feels the fire fighters were correct) to more compassionate conservatives who argue that the fire should have been extinguished.

 

There might be a good homeschool lesson in a discussion of those posts and the idea of moral hazard.

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Just to play devils advocate.

 

What happens if the fire dept does put out the fire and lets them pay the fee tomorrow. What incentive to people have to pay the fee. There would be no need to support the fire dept. Wait until you have a fire and then pay a $75 fee. They wouldn't have a fire dept if everyone did this.

 

The way they have it set up right now it is a no win scenario for the fire dept .

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I completely understand that the fire department should be funded better, and the town should have a better way to make sure they are compensated. But the fire department is not the same as an insurance company. They should have put out the fire and sent a bill or used the issue to raise funds and awareness. Really, such fees should not be optional, it should just be a tax.

 

The fire department and town will most likely be sued and loose.

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Just to play devils advocate.

 

What happens if the fire dept does put out the fire and lets them pay the fee tomorrow. What incentive to people have to pay the fee. There would be no need to support the fire dept. Wait until you have a fire and then pay a $75 fee. They wouldn't have a fire dept if everyone did this.

 

The way they have it set up right now it is a no win scenario for the fire dept .

 

Exactly. Similar to how ERs work. Even if you don't have insurance or ability to pay, they MUST treat you and everyone else has to pay more to cover the uninsured. On the other hand, do we want people to die in the street b/c they don't have insurance? Do we want people to have their houses burn down while ffs stand by because they didn't pay a fee? I think most of us would say no. So, how do we solve the free rider problem? Perhaps the fd could charge the family 500 or 1000 dollars if they put out a fire for a famliy who hadn't paid the fee. Some amount high enough to make it worthwhile for most people to pay the fee. Another option for both the fire and med. free rider problem - private charities to pay the premiums. Our gas company has an option right on your bill to give any extra amount you want to help pay for customers experiencing economic hardship. I could see the same thing on a fd bill.

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Just to play devils advocate.

 

What happens if the fire dept does put out the fire and lets them pay the fee tomorrow. What incentive to people have to pay the fee. There would be no need to support the fire dept. Wait until you have a fire and then pay a $75 fee. They wouldn't have a fire dept if everyone did this.

 

The way they have it set up right now it is a no win scenario for the fire dept .

 

I can see this side of the coin -- but the current policy apparently is, "we'll help, if the wind is going in our direction." This is not a policy that is enforceable either morally or legally.

 

Just playing devil's advocate back.

 

In the current scenario, the family HAD been helped before when they forgot to pay the fee. They paid the fee after the fact. What if the fire chief "liked" the family 3 years ago, and was replaced by a NEW fire chief who didn't like the family?

 

Or worse... what if the family was a minority, or gay? The fire chief prior was not a bigot and helped. The fire chief today is a bigot and just said, "whatever... not my problem."

 

The problem we have currently is a family who forgot to pay something they recognize they should have paid. They didn't "just not want to." The fire department has a history of helping out REGARDLESS of payment, and ACCEPTING late payment. The FD is at the scene and does nothing -- despite a previous history of doing so. The house could have been saved...

 

Regardless of how I feel about such policies (and I DO believe the county could include the costs of the fire coverage in property taxes, and forward it onto the city, OR the insurance company could include it in their fees, OR increase the insurance fees to commensurate for the lack of fire coverage, OR the mortgage company could have an escrow account set up for taxes and fire insurance, or if the payment after the fact is triple the cost of paying up front...any number of viable options). The problem I have is with the current policy being selectively enforced (or not enforced).

 

Additionally, the fact remains that IF the fire department HAD responded to the initial call -- another house would most likely NOT have caught fire -- dealing even more damage.

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I totally understand the camp that says, hey, he chose not to pay the fee, he knew the risk and took it. If the FD put his fire out, what's the incentive for anybody to pay? What happens to the FD, then? It's a good argument. I see that.

 

I just can't get past the fact that they responded to the call, yet stood around watching a family's house burn because of a $75 fee. The FD should have worked for him the way they'd have worked for anybody, then let the people of the community decide how to fix the screwed up system, later.

 

Can you imagine our grandparent's generation? Even our parents, for heaven's sake, just sitting around while a neighbor lost everything? What's wrong with us?

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IMO, a MUCH better response would have been:

 

1) Put out the fire.

2) Keep the community informed of incidents of generosity such as this.

3) Ask the homeowner to make all back payments.

4) Ask the community to make additional donations to support this type of generous community service.

 

As it stands, the fire department is now the "bad guy" and will likely get nothing but heavy-handed treatment from all involved. IOW, their heartless act will result in heartless treatment from others.

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What happens if the fire dept does put out the fire and lets them pay the fee tomorrow. What incentive to people have to pay the fee. There would be no need to support the fire dept. Wait until you have a fire and then pay a $75 fee. They wouldn't have a fire dept if everyone did this.

 

The way they have it set up right now it is a no win scenario for the fire dept .

 

According to several articles I read, the family begged to pay the entire cost of fighting the fire if the fire department would just please come and put it out. The entire cost, not just the $75.

 

Additionally, when the fire department was first called, the fire had not reached the house and there was ample time for them to arrive and put out the fire before it did.

 

If the FD had done that, then the family should have paid the actual cost of the service. The fire was originally started in a burn barrel or two, and somehow got out of control. At this point, when 911 was called, the fire was clearly the result of gross negligence on someone's part (depending on whether the grandchild was a minor requiring the supervision and permission of the grandparents to burn materials). I live in the country, and we burn things from time to time -- that is the way it is done here. Not having a water source right there to put out any resulting uncontained fire is a basic safety rule. So is not having a human being standing right there the entire time the fire is burning, so s/he will be available to put out any uncontained fire.

 

So an argument can be made, were the specific facts known, that the house burned down as a direct result of someone's negligence. The fact that the family called for help and was denied it changes the picture, in my view. Yes, the FD had no legal duty to rescue because the fee was unpaid. However, especially after being told they would be paid the entire cost (not just the fee), I think they had a moral duty to help. Even a legal duty can be argued because of the prior behavior of the FD in putting out a chimney fire a few years previously, when the fee had also been unpaid. The argument is that the family reasonably relied upon the FD because of the FD's rescue the other time this happened.

 

About moral duties: Let's say you are walking around a lake and you see a 4 year old child whom you have never met, fall into the lake and begin to drown. You have no duty to rescue that child at all, under the law. You stand on your legal ground and walk away, when you could have taken a few steps into the water and pulled the child out.

 

A witness who is too far away to save the child sees all this and identifies you to the police when they come to pull the tot's body out of the lake. Can the police arrest you for failing to rescue the child? No.

 

Was your decision the right thing to do, since it was not against the law? No. If you disagree, think about how you'd feel if it was your child. Is your specific situation then an exception -- but everyone else's child can drown for all you care? Will you be horrified that someone who was in a position to save your child did not do so for no reason at all except that they weren't required by law to do it? Your horror would spring from the fact that the moral imperative to save your child was ignored, and your child died as a result.

 

This situation with the fire was just another example of good people standing around doing nothing to help. One ultimate example of this took place in Nazi Germany -- there were plenty of good people who did nothing to help. The ones who had the courage to do so were exceptional.

 

Here, the fire firefighters on the scene were good people who did nothing to help. Just following orders. Oh my. Now the FD has stated, in another article I read, that if there had been a person in the house, they would have rescued that person. Obviously property (here, a family's home, pets, and possessions) is not as valuable as a human life. But when human lives are not at stake, having a home, pets and possessions is very important. It's not as though these people lost just their front porch. This was a serious fire that could not be contained by water from a garden hose.

 

Essentially, the risk to the firefighters here was quite low. There were no people in the house, and thus there was no reason for them to go inside and risk their lives. If they had showed up before it was necessary to stand by to make sure the fire did not overtake the fee-paying neighbor's house, the fire would not have reached the house yet.

 

As far as the incentive people would have to pay the fee is concerned, most people would continue to do so anyway. Furthermore, this is another wake-up call to the county. They should implement a system that works, instead of having this horrible, mindless and heartless zero-tolerance system in place.

Edited by RoughCollie
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Had I been one of the firefighters there, they would have had to physically restrain me in order to have kept me from trying to do what I could. There is no bureaucratic nonsense that could induce me stand by and watch a family lose everything if there was anything in my power I could do to help. Yes, even if it meant I lost my job, and even if it meant I were in some way prosecuted.

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It looks like these people need to get together and fund a volunteer fire department for their area.

 

And here is where they probably have standing for a lawsuit...

 

 

 

The prior incidence sets a standard of reasonable expectation for emergency service DESPITE non-pre-payment -- and that payment for services rendered was acceptable after the fact. I expect that without a written policy change (to exclude services to those who had not pre-paid) that was clearly stated to these rural homeowners (and even that would be difficult to prove), a legal challenge could be mounted.

 

This type of suit would require a much, much lower standard of evidence -- and prior FD actions would more than likely be enough to prove the department did not act in accordance with an "unwritten contract" to assist homeowners who had not pre-paid for service and bill after the fact.

 

I would say, in light of the FD's prior actions, their current situation becomes quite indefensible morally and legally.

The prior incident could also show that these people don't pay unless they have a fire. It's sort of like letting your insurance lapse until you have an accident. Maybe once the company will let you pay late, but after that...... well I guess you should have learned your lesson.

Just to play devils advocate.

 

What happens if the fire dept does put out the fire and lets them pay the fee tomorrow. What incentive to people have to pay the fee. There would be no need to support the fire dept. Wait until you have a fire and then pay a $75 fee. They wouldn't have a fire dept if everyone did this.

 

The way they have it set up right now it is a no win scenario for the fire dept .

Precisely. Maybe this community needs to get together and make their own volunteer fire department.

I totally understand the camp that says, hey, he chose not to pay the fee, he knew the risk and took it. If the FD put his fire out, what's the incentive for anybody to pay? What happens to the FD, then? It's a good argument. I see that.

 

I just can't get past the fact that they responded to the call, yet stood around watching a family's house burn because of a $75 fee. The FD should have worked for him the way they'd have worked for anybody, then let the people of the community decide how to fix the screwed up system, later.

 

Can you imagine our grandparent's generation? Even our parents, for heaven's sake, just sitting around while a neighbor lost everything? What's wrong with us?

I believe they responded to the neighbor's call, but not the home owner's.

 

I could totally see my parents' generation sitting there watching. I could see my grandparents' generation standing there watching while blaming my generation. Yes, I could definitely see this.

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Here's an interesting article about the situation.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2010/10/05/113824.htm

 

I think it is a travesty that this happened.

 

The county should have made arrangements with the fire departments within its borders to cover the unincorporated areas. All they had to do was assign residents to the nearest fire department and pay the $75 fee for each, and add it to the property tax bills.

 

The way the zero-tolerance system is administered, it allows no room for human error. These people lost everything, including their pets, in that fire. What happened to compassion? This is morally wrong.

 

I bet if the media highlight that the pets (dogs and a cat) were killed in the fire, a whole bunch of people will suddenly become compassionate.

 

:iagree: with everything here. It shouldn't be an opt-in system and highlighting the pets changes all.

 

It is utterly disgusting to me. It's like a doctor's office refusing to perform CPR on a delivery guy who collapsed in their office because he wasn't a patient.

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It also seems to me that the insurance policies could be a key issue here. I know that our homeowner's insurance premiums are based on important factors such as the distance to the nearest responding fire department and the location of nearby water. In the case that the nearest fire department is not responding due to non-payment, then the rates would likely go up MUCH more than $75/year. Of course the insurance company has no knowledge of this prior to any fire, but they certainly know now. I wouldn't be surprised if they refused coverage if the policy was based on that fire department responding and the homeowner had not opted in for the corresponding period of the coverage.

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If there had been a child trapped in the house, I wonder if they would have still stood by and done nothing (I doubt it...also would show that the FD is not consistent).

 

I think this is disgusting. But then I live in an area where we have volunteer fire departments that everyone in the communities attempts to support through fundraising...and if someone is unable due to financial reasons, they would not sit around and watch them burn.

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Welcome to the libertarian paradise.

 

Reality is so much measure than fantasy. People want opt-in services to take the place of government, but they don't want to see firefighters stand by while a house burns down. They yell "health care is not a right," but they don't actually want to step over dead bodies in the street.

 

I bet that county has awesome low taxes.

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From the article, it sounds like they do have verbiage addressing this situation:

He said the insurance policy has a provision for a reduction in payouts if a fire protection service has not been subscribed but that the insurer has not enforced that in these situations.
I wonder how long the insurer will be willing to pay for houses that burn down because the homeowners don't pay for fire protection and the fire company watches as the house burns to the ground.

 

In this case it seems the insurance company is acting more like a community service organization while the fire company is operating more like a business. That's kinda upside-down if you ask me...

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I can't find an answer to one of my questions. Is this a paid fire dept. If it is then the fire fighters not responding (albeit a questionable action) could have meant they lose their job. Most FD's don't get huge salaries and for some it's the only way to put food on the table just like the rest of us. It also opens up a lot of other problems for the fireman personally. If they do respond and get hurt they would not be eligible for workers comp since that could very easily happen. If they lost their job for taking this action it is highly likely that they would not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

 

My Dh is a volunteer Fireman and works with our states Unemployment office. Fortunately our county and city assess taxes for fire services based on our property values. Each county is divided into sections and the tax money from that area is returned to the fire dept that covers that section. The fire depts close to each other respond if the assigned fire dept requests their aid and this agreement even includes neighboring counties. As a PP stated it is extremely expensive to run a fire dept. Trucks are extremely hard to get and most volunteer dept can only get them if they can find a good used truck at a good deal or they get a federal grant. They use a lot of gas, the suits that they must wear are expensive. I would encourage everyone of you to sit in on one of your fire departments monthly or annual meetings and ask questions, get a better idea about what you are paying for.

 

Now as to their action. They could easilly have been fired for not following orders. That is legal and it is also a legal reason for the federal and state government to refuse to pay you unemployment benefits. As to workman's comp. It is very easy to get burned in a fire. My husband was badly burned in a training fire. He had third degree burns on this hand and the fire was so hot it melted his face shield. They were doing training with another dept and they weren't giving my husband the cover he needed. He was the one at the nozzle end of the hose and they were in a house. The other fire dept let the surrounding area get too hot and the water on the ground turned to steam. I almost lost him, if it had not been for another fireman forcefully pulling him out he could have died. Since then the training procedures have changed. Anyway, workman's comp covered his injuries and care but if they were told the injuries were suffered because the fireman had done something after they had been told not to the can refuse to pay the claim.

 

So their are many issues here. Personally I don't think people should be given the choice of whether to pay or not. Yes there will be a certain number of people who won't pay their fees (or taxes in our situation) but that can be compensated more easily in setting the budget and it avoids the situation of having firefighters (whom I'm sure would have rather been fighting that fire) sitting and watching.

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I think it takes a pretty big pair of cajones to stand around a watch someone's house burn to the ground if one is in a position to help.

 

I think it takes a bigger pair to buck a bad system and do the right thing.

 

Having been both a paid and a volunteer fire fighter I cannot imagine continuing employment with a department at allows such a thing. But I know, as evidenced by what happened, that there are those firefighters that will.

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While I'm sorry the Cranick family lost their home, I don't understand the media uproar.

 

This family didn't pay the fire service fee. According to the mayor of South Fulton, this policy has been in place for 20 years. If a resident doesn't pay the fee, the fire department doesn't respond to a fire on the resident's property.

 

"Cranick, who lives outside the city limits, admits he "forgot" to pay the annual $75 fee."

 

Actions have consequences. The policy seems pretty straight forward - if you don't pay for fire protection, you won't get fire protection.

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While I'm sorry the Cranick family lost their home, I don't understand the media uproar.

 

This family didn't pay the fire service fee. According to the mayor of South Fulton, this policy has been in place for 20 years. If a resident doesn't pay the fee, the fire department doesn't respond to a fire on the resident's property.

 

"Cranick, who lives outside the city limits, admits he "forgot" to pay the annual $75 fee."

 

Actions have consequences. The policy seems pretty straight forward - if you don't pay for fire protection, you won't get fire protection.

 

1. Except, that policy has been broken --allowing for people to pay for services AFTER they were rendered. Additionally, THIS family had begged for the FD to stop the fire... stating that they would pay the costs to do so. They had a reasonable expectation for their offer of payment upon services rendered to be accepted, since it had been accepted before.

 

2. The fire department WATCHED the fire burn down the house.

 

3. Additionally, the fire department's lack of initial response to the brush fire is the direct cause to a secondary home catching fire -- NEEDLESSLY.

 

I grew up in wildfire country... I take brush fires very seriously, whether they were started as a "trash fire," a lightening strike, or someone tossing a cigarette out a window. There was no reason for either house to have been set aflame. The fire should have been stopped with the initial call... not allowed to spawn additional fires and spread to neighboring homes. That is plain common sense.

 

The facts, as they have been explained, point to the fact that the fire should have been responded to, and the costs borne by the people who started the fire.

 

The change in policy -- based upon the fire department's own actions -- was clearly NOT about money, because the family was willing to pay far more than the $75 fee. It was about making an example out of the family for non-pre-payment -- and while they "made their point" -- they allowed another neighbor's home to be set aflame.

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While I'm sorry the Cranick family lost their home, I don't understand the media uproar.

 

This family didn't pay the fire service fee. According to the mayor of South Fulton, this policy has been in place for 20 years. If a resident doesn't pay the fee, the fire department doesn't respond to a fire on the resident's property.

 

"Cranick, who lives outside the city limits, admits he "forgot" to pay the annual $75 fee."

 

Actions have consequences. The policy seems pretty straight forward - if you don't pay for fire protection, you won't get fire protection.

So, if a child had been inside that home and you were responsible for the FD, you would have been fine making them all stand there and watch the home burn?

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During the emergency call, he offered to pay all expenses related to the Fire Department's defense of his home, but the South Fulton firefighters refused to do anything.

 

So really it wasn't about the money. There was something else going on.

 

Tara

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1. Except, that policy has been broken --allowing for people to pay for services AFTER they were rendered. Additionally, THIS family had begged for the FD to stop the fire... stating that they would pay the costs to do so. They had a reasonable expectation for their offer of payment upon services rendered to be accepted, since it had been accepted before.

How many exceptions were the Cranicks supposed to get? Perhaps the chimney fire should have served as a wake up call to pay the fee? Personal responsibility is in play here. They didn't buy fire protection. They did not receive fire protection.

 

2. The fire department WATCHED the fire burn down the house.

Does this change the fact that the Cranicks declined to purchase fire protection?

 

3. Additionally, the fire department's lack of initial response to the brush fire is the direct cause to a secondary home catching fire -- NEEDLESSLY.

 

I grew up in wildfire country... I take brush fires very seriously, whether they were started as a "trash fire," a lightening strike, or someone tossing a cigarette out a window. There was no reason for either house to have been set aflame. The fire should have been stopped with the initial call... not allowed to spawn additional fires and spread to neighboring homes. That is plain common sense.

Fires are deadly, dangerous, and destructive. All the more reason for the Cranicks to have purchased the fire protection.

 

 

The facts, as they have been explained, point to the fact that the fire should have been responded to, and the costs borne by the people who started the fire.

I agree. The Cranicks should have purchased the fire protection services.

 

 

The change in policy -- based upon the fire department's own actions -- was clearly NOT about money, because the family was willing to pay far more than the $75 fee. What change in policy? The policy has been in place for 20 years. It was about making an example out of the family for non-pre-payment -- and while they "made their point" -- they allowed another neighbor's home to be set aflame. The fire department provided fire protection services to the neighbor because the neighbor had paid the fee.

 

The Cranicks lost their home. Do I feel sorry for them? Of course. But, actions have consequences.

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No risk to the FF? Beg to differ! Let's see, the homeowner "forgot" to pay the fee--yeah, and what if everyone did? No training, worn out SCBA's, life-threatening out-of-date bunker gear, etc. Yeah, and what the earlier poster pointed out--the volunteers would have had no workmen's comp (and 60% of volunteer time paid is still 0% pay!), no disability, losing their paid job because they are not making it to work due to injuries, nada. Yeah, they SAID they'd pay all expenses--they have NO CONCEPT of what that would have cost--they were cheap and they paid for it. That FD would have never seen a penny from those homeowners and if a FF was hurt, yeah, there'd be a few spaghetti dinners to raise money and then things would go back to the FF's family struggling to survive. I'm sorry for the family that lost their house and belongings, but this has happened other places. They need to form a taxing entity if they expect the FD to show up. The FF probably would have been sued for not doing it "correctly" and as they would have been working outside their legal structure, THEY could have lost THEIR lives and belongings.

 

 

 

:iagree:

 

Wife of a former FF here... FFs don't decide what to fight or not fight. They follow orders and are supervised just like any other employee. Should they lose their jobs because someone conveniently "forgot" to pay their fee? I think not.

 

As far as standing around watching gleefully while someone's house burns down, no FF I know would do such a thing. I'm sure their every instinct was screaming to put out the fire. Instead of demonizing them, let's keep the blame where it belongs, please - on the homeowner.

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:iagree:

 

Wife of a former FF here... FFs don't decide what to fight or not fight. They follow orders and are supervised just like any other employee. Should they lose their jobs because someone conveniently "forgot" to pay their fee? I think not.

 

As far as standing around watching gleefully while someone's house burns down, no FF I know would do such a thing. I'm sure their every instinct was screaming to put out the fire. Instead of demonizing them, let's keep the blame where it belongs, please - on the homeowner.

:iagree:

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I have to stand with the fire department. The man offered to pay during the crisis? Who says he will follow through? Who says he has the $ to pay it? For all those who are comparing this to losing a life in a medical emergency; that is an apple, this is an orange. There was no life in danger here. There were possessions in danger. You really cannot compare the two. They had responded before when he hadn't paid? All the more reason NOT to respond this time. Exactly how many times is he supposed to be allowed to get away with this? You think this should be a taxed/provided service? Well, it isn't. Maybe this incident will change that for this area. I don't know how the laws are written, perhaps the people have to vote the tax into effect and have declined the idea. Many places have this as policy. People need to wake up and realize that when they do not pay the fee, they are not included in the service.

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Fires are very unpredictable. Moral issues aside, I cannot fathom that the department wasn't worried about the potential for that fire to spread in spite of their efforts to contain it.

 

The system they have needs to be changed, no doubt. But while it is being changed, it might be wisest for the fire department to put out fires.

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It is my understanding that the FD did not respond to the initial call (before it had reached the house) because the homeowner hadn't paid to be included in fire protection services. By the time the FFs responded to a second call, the fire had reached the house and was too far gone to attempt to extinguish.

 

If the family couldn't afford $75, how could they possibly afford the real cost of fighting the fire?

 

My husband is a member of the chemical fire brigade where he works. Fire protection is a service that is paid for with our local tax dollars. It is not free. The homeowner should have paid the $75. If he "forgot" or "couldn't afford it", he still must take responsibility for his actions.

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I am not certain how it works in other states. In Michigan, the home would probably have been saved and the homeowner billed. There is much at risk for allowing a structure to burn. Also, human life would absolutely be taken into consideration. We have a number of individuals that like to go ice fishing in the winter and do so at their own peril. Many times some will be out on the ice despite Coast Guard warnings that the ice is too thin. At least once per winter some idiot ends up floating away on a piece of ice that broke free. They are rescued from their own stupidity and then they are billed for the costs of the rescue. People are not billed if they are being responsible and something unfortunate occurs. But, if your own negligence is involved, then you are billed. Wages can be garansheed, property can be seized, etc. It's serious but no one is left to die. I would hope that in this case, if someone had been trapped in the building, that the response would have been different.

 

The pets, while tragic, I may be flamed for saying this, are not worth the risk of the firefighter's life and every single FF puts his/her very life on the line every time he/she goes into a structure fire. So, I don't think that the fact that there were pets involved should be a deciding factor in the response of the fire department.

 

Obviously, there was a serious breakdown, a tragic breakdown, in communication in terms of dealing with just such a situation.

 

As for the brush fire, those things are just deadly, period and need to be dealt with ASAP. However, our town is situated six miles from the nearest fire department and so when a brush fire starts, this town turns out in droves with their hoses, buckets, trailers full of barrels of water filled from wells, tractors for plowing fire breaks, pick-ups with plowing blades which will be used to knock down small trees and dead brush, etc. We can't wait because that response time, so many minutes for the team to assemble (volunteer department), get the rig going, make way through the in town traffic (not easy on a business lane with parking on both sides of the street and two way traffic and then the rural roads to boot - you get the idea. I suspect that this particular locale was not prepared to do anything to prevent the spread of a brush fire in the event of delayed response time from a fire station not in their community.

 

Also, in our area, if the brush fire was started from negligence by a property owner, that property owner's insurance would be liable to pay out for damages. It may be possible for the Crannick family to recover some or all of their losses or for their insurance company to do so, if the fire was caused by someone else's actions.

 

The whole thing shows a breakdown from top to bottom and the firefighters were in a d*mned if you do, d*mned if you don't position. I don't blame them but it does show that every policy that affects emergency and rescue operations, must be carefully evaluated, clearly defined, and as many contingencies as possible do need to be addressed. It will never be perfect but something like this could have been foreseen.

 

Faith

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The system they have needs to be changed, no doubt. But while it is being changed, it might be wisest for the fire department to put out fires.

What is wrong with a fire protection policy that encourages personal responsibility and accountability?

 

Oh, I thought of another potential problem: what if your records that show this family hasn't paid are wrong? And you let their house burn to the ground because of a paperwork snafu?

 

Has this ever happened? The Cranicks aren't claiming they paid and were wrongly denied service. They admit they didn't pay the fee.

 

If I were a homeowner who purchased fire protection service, I would check with the fire department after my check cleared, to ensure my coverage was active. Again, personal responsibility...

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It is my understanding that the FD did not respond to the initial call (before it had reached the house) because the homeowner hadn't paid to be included in fire protection services. By the time the FFs responded to a second call, the fire had reached the house and was too far gone to attempt to extinguish.

 

If the family couldn't afford $75, how could they possibly afford the real cost of fighting the fire?

 

My husband is a member of the chemical fire brigade where he works. Fire protection is a service that is paid for with our local tax dollars. It is not free. The homeowner should have paid the $75. If he "forgot" or "couldn't afford it", he still must take responsibility for his actions.

:iagree: And I read the same thing.

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If I were a homeowner who purchased fire protection service, I would check with the fire department after my check cleared, to ensure my coverage was active. Again, personal responsibility...

 

Would you really? Do you call and make sure that every check you send off has been recieved? I mean, that's great if you do, but I think that most people write the check, mail it off, and mark that task off their to-do list. And even if you make that call, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people here in my neck of the woods (Katrina territory) who have suffered the perils of government paperwork snafus EVEN THOUGH they did indeed call and check to see if their application had arrived, were correct, etc.

 

As for "Has this ever happened?" that depends on what you mean by "this." If you mean, has a house ever burned to the ground because of a snafu in government paperwork, then I have no idea. If you mean, has the government ever utterly screwed up paperwork, then yeah, you betcha! :D

 

I'm not supporting the idea of anyone not paying for fire coverage. I'm just exploring the potential down sides and liabilities of this response.

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Would you really? Do you call and make sure that every check you send off has been recieved? I mean, that's great if you do, but I think that most people write the check, mail it off, and mark that task off their to-do list. And even if you make that call, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people here in my neck of the woods (Katrina territory) who have suffered the perils of government paperwork snafus EVEN THOUGH they did indeed call and check to see if their application had arrived, were correct, etc.

 

As for "Has this ever happened?" that depends on what you mean by "this." If you mean, has a house ever burned to the ground because of a snafu in government paperwork, then I have no idea. If you mean, has the government ever utterly screwed up paperwork, then yeah, you betcha! :D

 

I'm not supporting the idea of anyone not paying for fire coverage. I'm just exploring the potential down sides and liabilities of this response.

I check, but I just check my bank account.

 

In everything there will be down sides and liabilities. One of the biggest that these homeowners have, perhaps, not considered is the complete loss of these services. See, this fire dept. is in another area. They have offered their services to people that pay the fee. If this were to turn into a large law suit then the losers will be that community/county when they completely lose their access to that department.

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