Why the TN home allowed to burn to the ground was an embarrassment to the Fire Service.

A lot has been said about the events that unfolded regarding a home that was allowed to burn to the ground in TN. One of the main arguments (in fact, the only valid argument) criticizing the homeowner was that he didn't pay the $75 Fee required by the fire department prior to the fire, as the response was outside of the regular district boundary required payment. Folks living outside of the boundary don't pay taxes that support the fire department, so a fee was implemented to offset the response.  They all knew it too. OK Let's take a look at that...............


First....How does $75 dollars pay for an engine crew, let alone multiple crews to respond to a fire? Ans: It doesn't. But since they can't levy the true costs of a single response on to a homeowner (did you know that trying to charge for suppression efforts AFTER the incident is next to impossible based on the law?), they have to utilize a reasonable fee structure that requires some "skin" in the game, yet collectively,  it covers expenses associated with fire suppression.


This is a basic insurance method of covering costs, in that, $75 won't pay for a response, but if 100 homeowners pay, and say there's only 2 fire calls per year in the area, the department receives $7500 for the two calls. (The 2 calls is just an example, for all you fact freaks, since I don't know how many times this particular FD responded out of district, nor do I know how many have paid the fee)


The way car insurance works (in case you forgot) is that if you wreck your car, and don't have insurance, you have to pay your own expenses. Sounds good so far? And you can't pay AFTER the fact to get coverage...YEAH.  In fact, in some states, it's ILLEGAL to NOT have CAR insurance to protect other drivers... (stay with me here).................but if that uninsured car is on fire in the middle of the road, outside or inside the district boundary........the FD puts it out....right?


Now, if someone is in the car...well, that makes all the sense in the world. But if I didn't pay my fire taxes (say I live out of state and I'm sightseeing in beautiful TN), nor did I pay my car insurance (yeah...I'm a risk taker), but the car is on fire, they put it out...pat each other on the back, and then go have a cold one at the local watering hole and talk about the look on the guys face when his house burned to the ground.


But wait.....If my car's leaking gas as a result of an accident................here comes Haz Mat. Maybe I had some chemicals in the trunk (yeah...I moon light for a company trying to take over UPS's business..LOL), and it creates a cloud of methyl-ethyl bad stuff, and traffic has to be shut down, an area evacuated, detection gear, decontamination, the works... (that dang MSDS wasn't handy, and the bump on my head made my memory of what chemicals I had fuzzy), and you've got yourself a real honest to goodness S%#T-fest on your hands. How much does that cost tax payers? (I'm sure the FACTS Geeks will have a reasonable answer for this one).


So, let me get this straight...........you can cause one heck of an incident, costing tax payers a boat-load of money, shutting down a road, endangering residents, if it involves your car. But if your house catches on fire, spewing embers, causing spot fires, igniting stuff on fire that has to be extinguished, the "seat of the fire" is allowed to burn,  with the potential to create more devastation, (and you've set a president by allowing a homeowner to pay a fee AFTER the fire was put out on prior incidents to prevent the aforementioned  issues), but you say....naw....not this time.....you just let the home burn?


Now answer me this: If I was a neighbor, and I paid my $75, and I live a few houses away, how am I protected exactly? The unpaid homeowners home is going up in smoke, spewing a column of smoke and fire, and the engine crew arrives and breaks out the popcorn. The next thing I know, my wood shingle roof has gone..poof...and is on fire. They put the popcorn down, spray some water on my house. But dang... one of the embers got into the attic....and poof...their goes my house. Is there any MORAL responsibility on behalf of the department to have put the original fire out?


Of course, this particular department has allowed folks to pay AFTER THE FACT. It had something to to with not letting one structure fire turn into a whole neighborhood disaster (former fire chief's thinking at the time, but he's long gone). But can you honestly tell me, if that house on fire was surrounded by homes on three sides, that it wouldn't have been tactically prudent to put out the main fire if it was a eminent threat to the paid subscribers?  So this poor guy's home burns down because they could AFFORD to let it burn based on geography?


So let me get this straight; You can pay the fee before the home burns and get protection. You can buy it after the home burns to the ground and get protection (rekindle anyone). But for the time it's on fire........NO DEAL?


Well boys and girls, there's the LETTER of the law, and the SPIRIT of the law. There's MORALITY, COMPASSION, ETHICS and PROFESSIONALISM. Regardless if the fee was paid was one second prior, or one second after the fire, it should have been extinguished, because its a THREAT to the paying customers (But not in this case...right FACT Geeks?)It's an area they had to respond to protect other homes. Put out the first fire to prevent anything else form happening. If you can come close to a moral argument as to why I'm wrong, well....I'm sure you'll tell me. A sad day indeed.

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What if they had fought the fire and there had been a fire in the city, or worse a fire with a person trapped?  Would everyone still feel the same way about this issue?


If they got their records keeping wrong, or if the check is in the mail, what happens? Let's say it's a weekend so records can't be properly verified. Better yet, the computer that holds the Fee info is not cooperating.

Anyway....a fire occurs in the garage. They call 911. They determine that this property owner didn't pay the $75, or that they hadn't received a payment yet?  They plead, like the TN homeowner did, for some water.............but NOPE!


The house burns to the ground, but it's proven that there was a clerical error, or something similar?

 Isn't just better to put the darn fire out, and ask questions later?

Now here's an odd question that I haven't seen:


My volunteer department covers me with Workers' Comp Insurance (through the county plan) if I am injured on the job, but only if I'm part of an assigned crew which has been dispatched to an incident, or if I am on duty in the station and injured there. I'm not covered, however, if I roll up on an accident and am injured while trying to assist someone. Thankfully, I'm covered by good medical insurance through my FT job, but many of our guys are not so lucky.


What happens if I decide to take matters into my own hands, disregard town policy and fight a fire over which I have no authority to fight and I'm injured? Who's going to pay for that? If a viable human life is at stake, I have a moral responsibility to assist in whatever way I can, and I'll assess the risks and take whatever prudent steps are necessary to make a rescue or whatever. 


But if only property is involved? How many times have we all made a "surround and drown" decision knowing that an interior attack is unsafe when no lives are at risk? Granted this department did not apply water, but even when we do apply water in a purely defensive attack, we do so with the knowledge that a significant part of the structure will be lost.


I'm assuming that the department's decision was made based solely on the fact that the owner hadn't paid the required fee. But from news reports I've seen, it looks like there is about an 11-minute response time from station to burning structure. Assuming there are no hydrants (and in a county which doesn't provide fire protection, I would doubt they've invested in hydrants), you're looking at a water supply issue very quickly. And considering it was a mobile home fire and the fact that mobile homes burn more quickly than most traditional stick-built, wood-frame residential structures, I'm guessing the home was well-involved when the fire company arrived on scene. As a chief officer, my initial size-up considerations (heavy fire showing, weakened structure, inadequate water supply, no life-safety hazard), I might have strongly considered a defensive attack.

I wish I could learn from the Chief directly what would've occured if there had been an obvious life-safety risk, or if the owner had actually paid his fee, would they have attempted an interior attack? I don't think this issue is nearly as simplistic as many (including the IAFF's position statement) have made it out to be.


The one lesson I think we can learn from this is that fire service needs to be provided universally -- just as public schools are provided universally. It's fine to charge a fee after-the-fact (and to provide mechanisms for fire companies to collect those fees). EMS does this in many areas. And insurance companies are aware of this and will add it into the medical claim. Homeowners' insurance and Auto insurance policies should follow suit to ensure adequate fire protection universally without having to look up on the CAD notes, or on a list to see if someone has a Fire Mark above their door. Didn't we get rid of those in Philadelphia and Boston in the 19th Century?

I have watched video from several news casts and I haven't heard anyone mention retroactive payment.

I know this same department had a similar incident in 2008.

But, if the former chief was allowing for violation of the city's policy, then perhaps that's why he's "former" chief.

Don't know.

If I am not mistaken most Homeowner policys pay the fire dept alot more than 75 dollars for responding to a house fire ,and a bill is sent to the home owner saying the # of trucks,firefighters and amount of time .If there was homeowners insurance there is no issue and the fire could have been put out . Another ? is what would they have done if it was another firefighters home whom didn't pay the 75 dollars would they have let a Brothers home burn

It was reported last night on MSNBC. I don't ahve a link...sorry!

Being a good samaratin or a free lancer are not covered under Work Comp for our department.

So if Fulton didn't respond to the call initially, doesn't that put the paid subscribers at more risk, because their homes are more susceptible to the greater amount of fire?  If the neighbor wasn't home, would the fire have been allowed to spread unchecked until another neighbor noticed something? 


Right........you seem to have a problem with Moral High Ground. But didn't Moral High Ground eventually give us equal voting rights, civil liberties, equal protection rights, workers rights (due process),and a whole slew of other rights, that before the Moralists stood up, were a part of laws to be followed and enforced?


And for the record, I'm not bashing Fulton, or the firefighters. I'm aiming my disdain for the decision makers and the Chief.  The Chief makes the scene call, and he could have easily used this as a positive training scenario, by bailing the homeowner out, and using it as a public relations campaign to motivate others to sign up.

Sure.......you say fear will now......but at what price? I say it wasn't worth watching a man's home burn. Too much can go wrong between the time they refuse to respond, and the home burning to the ground. It's a good thing the homeowner didn't go back into the home to try to say the animals (something I've seen folks lose their lives over). 


Why not save the home and bill the homeowner for the full cost to fight that fire?

Because, according to some on this board, he didn't pay his fee, so he needs to learn a lesson...LOL  My question is, what if someone set the fire, like an arsonist? Is it even possible to think that you could be a victim of a crime, and the arsonist gets away with it, because the home burns to the ground, and it's not investigated at the scene? Because the FD does not take possession, the Chain of Evidence is lost, making a court case a non-issue.


Or better yet: What if a fire starts in a paid subscribers home, and the non-paying homeowner is a direct exposure that gets flame impingement. Do they protect the exposure, or let it burn? What a cluster!

LOL I can't believe that you keep it up with your damn what ifs. I suppose they make your argument "stronger".


Your imagination has been working overtime.

I'll bet you haven't been this worked up since they invented the Frisbee.

Arson. More often the complaint by investigators is that too much water was applied, thereby contaminating the scene or evidence simply floats away. I would think that they would get better samples from remnants that was free of water. I am talking physical evidence; not chemical/residual evidence. You know that some chemicals will be trapped in glass, wood, soot, etc.

As far as crime scene securement? That's for the cops. It's their crime scene.

Chain of custody should not be lost if the cops are called.

With your last example, you would have what happened and what we are discussing; only in reverse. Same outcome. Same cluster.


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