Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Burning Down the House

Here's the story that's igniting a fierce debate around the nation right now.
Firefighters in Tennessee stood by while the home of Gene Cranick burned to the ground, killing his 3 dogs and 1 cat.
The firefighters from South Fulton responded to the fire but didn't put it out because Cranick hadn't paid his fire fee. He lives outside the city of South Fulton and therefore doesn't pay taxes to support the firefighters. Instead, those residents were told, for an annual fee of $75, the South Fulton Fire Department would respond if the need ever arose.
His neighbor paid the fee, so when the fire spread to his home, firefighters quickly extinguished it.
At first Cranick said he simply forgot to pay the fee, but now it comes out that they sent him a letter and called him.
It's clear Cranick felt that he would never need firemen so he didn't pay the fee. And he clearly thought if there ever was a fire, they'd put it out anyway.

And there's where the debate comes in. Democrats are calling this extreme capitalism where life-saving and property-saving services are only provided to those who can and will pay.
Most people say humanity should have prevailed (and it would have if a person had been trapped) and they should have put of the fire and maybe charged him an exorbitant fee afterwards.

I say it's all Cranick's fault. I bring up personal responsibility again. Cranick was given a choice, pay for a service, or don't get the service. He chose to gamble, he lost. He needs to live with the consequences. If the SFFD bailed out Cranick it would send a message that no one ever need pay the fire fee. An optional fee wouldn't work and the Fire Department would incur huge losses and not be able to help the people who actually pay to support it.


ton said...

This story is crazy, but I think you nailed it. A pay if you need it system would just collapse. You don't get flooded, then call to pay for flood insurance afterwards.

Damino said...

I totally disagree. No problem with the $75 fee (and agree with Ton's point about insurance), but put out the damn fire and save the animals and property for God's sake, and charge this bastard $10,000 or something astronomical. He'll learn that there's no free lunch, and so will neighbors who had been avoiding paying the $75. If anything, this teaches the personal responsibility lesson, and it's economical and humane.

Paul said...

Logical, but I don't think it's feasible. First of all this is rural Tennessee so I doubt the ability of Cranick and other residents to pay an exorbitant fee if the need arose.
Also, would you have to negotiate the fee with the homeowner as the home is on fire?

Damino, your suggestion works in the theoretical world, not the real one.

In the real one you pay the fuckin Fire department, just in case.

Damino said...

When the FD collects the $75 fee, they simply have to make clear in writing that if you fail to pay and subsequently need a fire put out, you're liable for x thousand dollars. I'm sure they can put this into law by local ordinance.

No negotiating on the scene; no bailout; no welfare plan - you skip the $75 fee and you're on the hook if your house is on fire and either you or the FD determines that it needs to be put out.

If you can't pay later, too bad. It's the same deal as credit card interest or bank fees, and you'll have a judgment entered against you.

Seems to me this is good policy and as a homeowner and animal lover, if my neighbor's house was on fire I'd want the dogs saved and to not have to live near a charred wreck.