A twist on that Tennessee fire department that let a house burn

National Review via Reason:

Until a few years ago, [Fulton’s fire department] would not respond to any fires outside of the city limits — which is to say, the city limited its jurisdiction to the city itself, and to city taxpayers. A reasonable position. Then, a few years ago, a fire broke out in a rural area that was not covered by the city fire department, and the city authorities felt bad about not being able to do anything to help. So they began to offer an opt-in service, for the very reasonable price of $75 a year. Which is to say: They greatly expanded the range of services they offer. The rural homeowners were, collectively, better off, rather than worse off. Before the opt-in program, they had no access to a fire department. Now they do.

And, for their trouble, the South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before. The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates — and the problems they create for themselves are their own.

I live in Tennessee in the Blount County Fire Protection District. Fire department coverage here in the county is not automatic. I just paid my $110 annual fire subscription. If I don’t pay and the fire department gets two calls – one from a subscriber and one from a non-subscriber – they give preference to the subscriber. If they do fight a fire for a non-subscriber they bill $2,200 for the first two hours and $1,100/hour afterwards.

Paying the annual subscription makes good financial sense, but I don’t have a choice to not pay. My homeowners insurance policy is conditional on my paying for fire protection, and my mortgage is conditional on my having homeowners insurance.

12 Responses to A twist on that Tennessee fire department that let a house burn

  1. Craig T. says:

    Thanks for posting, Les. It baffles me that people think everything should be handed to them. This gentleman knew the price and the consequences, and he made his choice. There were no surprises here; exactly as he knew would happen.

    If we continue to bail folks out for making poor, obvious choices, why would anyone take the initiative to make the correct ones?

  2. Pamela Presnell says:

    I disagree fully. He had 3 dogs and a cat that burned in this house while the “heros” (yeah right), watched. The grandchildren cried in protest and pleaded for their animals to be saved, but yet…they did nothing. It’s a BS and if you have no humanity, then I truly feel sorry for you. I’m a 30 year old mom of a 3 year old and if I saw a crime happening in front of me. I know I couldn’t do much, but I would have done something to help.

  3. Les Jones says:

    Pamela, there was no crime. The firefighters worked for the city. The house was in the county. The homeowner didn’t pay taxes to the city and wasn’t subject to city laws or city taxes. The only relationship he would have had with the city was if he paid his $75/year dues and agreed to a contract, which he didn’t.

    True, they didn’t put out the fire. Then again, neither did I. Neither did you. None of the people scolding the fire department seem to be willing to buy a fire truck and then risk their lives putting out fires for free.

  4. Placebo says:

    So what if the fire department did do something but did it really half-ass (because they hadn’t been paid) so that the outcome was the same (i.e., house burning down and animals dead)? Would everyone feel better?

  5. Fred says:

    Lets start off ok bad resident he didnt pay his 75 dollars. As a past volunteer and now career firefighter i have fought fires for free and for a job now. Firefighters know their duties weither a VOLUNTEER or Career. A life is a life, human or animal. We carry animal rescue breathing equipment.

    The part of people buying fire trucks you can find them used at real good prices. If money is an issue why dont people help out and buy the area some trucks if thats the issue.

    Bottom line is this I was not there to know what really happened or what was told to the firefighters but disobeying an order to do what i know was right would be better off with me than the politics of money making the decision for me

  6. Les Jones says:

    Thing is, he wasn’t a resident. He was in the county. The FD was from the city. They had no jurisdiction there except for people who had contracted for fire service, which he hadn’t. So there were potentially legal and contract issues.

    I’m not 100% sure the firefighters did the right thing, but I’m surprised so many people automatically take the other side. Things in this world cost money. The homeowner has been quoted saying he knew he was supposed to pay the $75/year. This story will prompt an awful lot of people to pay their fire subscription.

  7. Theresa says:

    If it is about money then charge a fine for not paying the fee on time. You put out the fire, you try to save the pets. You do not devastate peoples lives, tramatize children who screamed and begged to have their pet saved. That is not the job of the fire department to decide who gets saved based on money. That is the reasons fireman are almost always held as heros, because the perform their duties without any prejudgice they save a poor man the same as a rich man. That is why we hold them examples of the best is all of us, its truely unselfish.
    Forcing these men to sit back and do nothing altered the last security all of us hold in our hearts, that if we should be in a fire there would be a fireman there to save us, our family our home and our pets!! If we can not hold on to that truth what do we have left.

  8. Les Jones says:

    The fire department didn’t have jurisdiction to fine the owner. The owner lived in the county. The fire department was from the city. The owner wasn’t subject to city laws.

    The family apparently had several pets and one of the cats died in the fire. This is a separate issue from everything else, but IMO it isn’t worth risking a firefighter’s life to save a cat.

  9. tkdkerry says:

    Les is right on this one. As much as my cat is loved, I would NEVER ask a person to risk their life for it. I would be asking that person’s family to trade their loved one’s life for my cat’s. That’s definitely on the list of things that are just flat wrong.

  10. charlyparker says:

    This is SO wrong! First of all, I cannot believe Tennessee does not provide fire department services to its citizens?!? This isn’t some tiny town in Kazakhstan — this is America for goodness sakes! I’ve never, EVER heard of an area that was not considered important enough to protect in case of fire? What has happened to this country?? God help us. Greed has taken the place of God, and America is now paying for it. I would be embarrassed to say I lived in Tennessee.

  11. Les Jones says:

    Fire service isn’t provided by the state. It’s provided by the local government. In this case the family lived in the county and the county never organized a fire department, volunteer or otherwise.

  12. Adam Westerdale says:

    The right thing to do is to help your neighbor when you’re able. Of all of us commenting, I imagine most of us would do our part to help and none of us would wish this tragedy on anybody.