Tennessee Firefighters Let Home Burn Over Subscription Issue

JASON HIBBS
WPSD
Reprinted with Permission

OBION COUNTY, Tenn. - Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won't respond, then watches it burn. That's exactly what happened to a local family tonight.

 

A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn't put it out. It wasn't until that fire spread to a neighbor's property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," said Gene Cranick.

Because of that, not much is left of Cranick's house.

They called 911 several times, and initially the South Fulton Fire Department would not come.

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.

Friends and neighbors said it's a cruel and dangerous city policy but the Cranicks don't blame the firefighters themselves. They blame the people in charge.

"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."

To give you an idea of just how intense the feelings got in this situation, soon after the fire department returned to the station, the Obion County Sheriff's Department said someone went there and assaulted one of the firefighters.

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Daniel,

When you resort to such base language it really invalidates your argument.  Moreover it shows you up for the arrogant, pompous ass you are.  Exactly how is it you've become the end-all be-all on this issue?  What you espouse is nothing more than your misplaced, misinformed and naive opinion.  That you think that only your viewpoint is accurate and a practical template for how the world should work is at best naive and at worse, blindly stupid and arrogant.

 

Payment before basic humanitarian services?  Sure, when it comes to health care...oh wait, when I go to the doctor I need to have either insurance or be prepared to pay then and there.  So much for basic humanitarian services.

 

You've decided, on some perceived high moral road how the world should be but sadly the world doesn't operate that way, we are a capitalism-based society.  And while I'm all in favor of health care for all, police and fire protections, trash removal, road/highway maintenance and education, it has to be paid for by someone.  Therein lies how our society/communities operate.  Taxes are levied, collected and disbursed to provide for said services.

 

Obion County 2 1/2 years ago was presented with a report stating that County-Wide Fire Protection was a necessity.  It presented statistics on call volume, staffing, equipment and population and clearly stated the 75% of working structure fires occurred outside city limits in the County.  It pointed out that there are two methods at work in providing fire protection, subscription and fee.  Subscription varied between $50-75 and fees were set at $500.  The report stated that the municipal fire departments (taxpayer-funded by in-city residents) had an approximately 50% collection rate and that there was NO legal method available for collection the balance.  In otherwords, only half of the owners to whom the municipal departments responded to bothered to pay the $500.  It went on to state that this kind of business model was unsustainable by the 8 municipalities that were offering fire protection.  It would appear that the taypayer-funded municipal fire departments were barely able to support their own city departments, much less providing fire protection to the outlying county residents.

 

Based on the above arguments the report strongly recommended that the County Commission in Obion County establish a County-Wide fire department.  The county commissioners chose to sit on the report and take NO action.  So this is NOT a City of South Fulton Fire Department issue, nor is it one involving their Mayor or Fire Chief but rather, one of the County Government failing to establish a county fire department for the protection of their constituents.

 

Municipal fire departments can NOT sustain continued fire protection to the outlying provinces without some sort of monetary influx.  And while you prance around on your my-little-pony high horse you fail to understand that the fire department did what they had been mandated to do.

 

To the rest of your argument: It's hyperbolic bullshit.  Who exactly was suffering in this issue?  The homeowner who with forethought chose NOT to pay his $75 fee?  The homeowner who felt that his property was not WORTH an additional $75/year of protection?  The county commissioners who chose NOT to act in the best interest of their constituents by establishing a county wide fire department?

 

It's amusing that you seem to think that only texas has qualified EMS personnel, moreover how did you arrive at that decision?  The service on scene was fire yet you've made the leap that (working backwards) their EMS is unqualified and untrained?  That kind of inept and illogical thinking serves not only to show you in a bad light but by extension, all of texas EMS (I've not included Fire in my assessment since you aren't a FF nor did you cast your withering eye of judgment upon them).  Your attitude is a characature of how many people already see texas/texans, thanks for that reinforcement.

 

What makes you think that the residents of Obion County (which is were we're talking about, as opposed to your misplaced call-to-arms to all residents of Tennessee) have been mislead by their local governments?  Living outside of the cities keeps taxes low which is attractive to many.  Once enough people in the county decide that they want more than is being offered they will elect people to get them those services.  And of course, they will all have to pay for service increases, assuming of course that they have gotten your permission to do so.  Let's hope you're in a good mood when they approach your throne seeking permission.

I would have broken ranks and saved that house... What could they do? Fire me! Thats funny...

We as fire fighters do this as a choice job and we save lives and property.To sit back and do nothing is very stupid what if someone was inside that structure of he didn't pay so oh well, Bull #@%!.The Mayor bet rethink this before someone does morew than assult the firefighter.This day and time people do crazy things in a blink of an eye.I can't just stand and watch the house burn I have saved a house in another fire district that wasn't ours.I have even helped peole out in other states while traveling on the highways.Bet they would just keep driving by saying oh well wonder if they paid there fee.I know there are other that would agree we are  a firefighter 24/7/365 and will always do whatis right to help someone in thier time of need.

actually, health reform requires everyone to buy insurance for exactly this reason.  You want to increase the "risk pool" (number of payers in the system) to as large a number as possible to reduce the per user cost.  Health reform basically said:

1) everyone has to buy insurance

2) no one can be disqualified for pre-existing conditions, or kicked out of a program if they get sick

3) if you are too poor to buy insurance, the fed will subsidise your plan

 

this way everyone is covered, and there is no moral hazard of someone not paying but then buying insurance after they get sick.  Most juristictions have the same thing for fire protection, everyone pays a fee (tax) up front, growing the risk pool as much as possible and elimiating the chance that a homeowner will be socked with a massive bill for a proper response.   This county has an opt-in plan which the homeowner opted out of.  It's a gamble.  he lost. 

 

The department should not make exceptions to the policy (unless life is at risk, which in this case was not). 

Let's say they agreed to fight the fire for cost - this cost could easily run well into the 10s of thousands of dollars.  What if the homeowner decides not to pay?  Do you put a lien on the house?  the homeowner will never rebuild if there is a lien on the property.  do you want the FD to be in the business of suing the citizens? 

 

With medical bills, there is a big industry in place for collecting bad debts, and the industry ends up charging you and me a lot extra to pay for those who can't pay for it.  For chronic care, good luck finding a doctor to treat you if you don't either have insurance or cash up front.

As an American living in Australia, I spend most of my time explaining that Americans aren't nearly the arrogant pricks they seem to act like all the time.

Sam, Your an idiot........Fire departments can only proceede as local goverments will alow them to.

Herb:

Where is your proof that past practice shows what you described? Do you have the name of someone who was treated differently?

As far as taxes: everyone pays. If they don't, then their taxes are sold to someone else. Then, if you don't pay them, they might just get your house in exchange for failure to pay property tax. If the bank owns the house, they pay the tax. If it is rental property, the property owner pays the tax. We receive taxes for every parcel of real estate in our district. So, there are no scofflaws.

I read that this fire department had a similar situation back in 2008. You make it sound like they have discriminated in the past and allowed others to pay AFTER the fact. So me the proof.

John:

You might want to play the lotto.

Art,

Sorry for bringing common sense and reason to this discussion..lol! It;s like bring a machine gun to a knife fight. The other guy will keep fighting even though he will lose!

33 years ago I took my oath as a career firefighter. In that oath I agreed to protect the lives and property of the citizens of my community and to obey my superiors and the city charter( I think they seriously paraphrased the military oath).

Up until about 15 years ago we had the similar problem. unprotected areas, if they had a fire and residents would call around to find a department to call. One small volunnteer department always would; until they gou caught with their pants down. They were 5 miles outside their district saving a $20K double wide when a $250K in their district caught fire. My department was calld to help, but opps we were at a fire in one of our local industries. New house and trailer home were a total loss. Vol dept's insurance paid for a new house. County soon there after required everyone to be in a municipal or fire protection district. SOmething needed in Tennessee!

Shame on you South Fulton, shame on you.......

I'm heading out buy lottery tickets shortly.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Dammit, Vic.

I thought you were an Australian living in America.

The room is spinning.

Make it stop.

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