Burned-down House is Government’s Fault

Liberals have been beside themselves over an incident in Obion County, Tennessee where firefighters allowed a small home to burn to the ground because the homeowners had failed to pay a $75 annual fee for fire protection; an option given to each resident of the county. In typical fashion, the blame for this has been summarily placed on conservatism, libertarianism, and even Ayn Rand. The real culprit here is the government, not the private sector.

 Most people expressing anger over this unusual incident have not been honest with the details about this incident; and their demagoguery is not going to rebuild the home that burned down. 

The homeowners did call the fire department once they realized the blaze could not be put out with a garden hose; the call was ignored. Firefighters did respond to a call from a neighbor, who had in fact paid their fee, once the flames threatened their property. By this time, the fire had consumed most of the non-payer’s home.

Here are the facts that seem to have been ignored by many on the left. The fire department was not privately owned. It was contracted by Obion County from the City of South Fulton. This is a government-run monopoly, not a free-market enterprise. These firefighters were following the policies set in place by the local government, not edicts laid down by arguably uncaring capitalists.

This is not a failure of capitalism or of limited government; it is a failure of government. As Thomas Firey, managing editor of the Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, notes, a private company would have likely put out the fire and sent the homeowner a bill.

While there is a legitimate argument to be had for local and county governments to provide services such as these, paid for by whatever taxes they choose, the unfortunate incident that took place in Obion County, Tennessee cannot fairly be laid at the feet of limited-government advocates.

130 comments Add your comment

Mrs. Norris

October 20th, 2010
12:12 pm

In most unincorporated areas people are required to pay a special services tax to cover fire and police services. It’s required! That’s the way it should be. Some things a government should do in a civilized society.

Peter

October 20th, 2010
12:13 pm

It is a Christian issue…….. The Baptist Mayor said…..”Let it Burn” essentially……

Jesus and God would have it burn since they didn’t pay at the Temple !

Love thy neighbor……….. but NOT…….. if they don’t pay up !

John

October 20th, 2010
12:19 pm

Thanks for pointing that out What a world we live in. I find it strange where we live in a society where so many claim we were founded on Christian principles and clamor for more Christian values but then choose to live very un-Christian like. My Christian teachings have taught me to look after my neighbor, to help the less unfortunate. Unfortunately, so many have become so selfish and self-centered that we have lost these values. Instead of helping, we tend to blame the less fortunate or those going through tough times by saying it’s their fault…they need to take care of themselves. I’m not so naive that I don’t believe there are some abuses…but not every person who is unemployed, homeless or can’t afford basic necessities find themselves there because they choose to be there. We have a movement going on calling for less taxes, cut spending and decrease the size of government. But the problem becomes on what should be cut. People want to cut services they personally don’t benefit from but at the same time would fight tooth and nail against cutting those services which they do personally benefit from.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
12:23 pm

Great plan Jawga!
Get back to yor WWF.
You still have to pay someone to scoop um off the curb at the emergency room and take um to the dump.

World we live in:
It is not as black and white as you make it seem.
Everyone would help in a fire.
What is the fire dispatcher to do next time when the fire is farther out in the country? At some point, someone has to make the decision. We can`t come.

John

October 20th, 2010
12:25 pm

Mr. Spock, why charge anyone the $75? Why not tax everyone and spread the cost and therefore cover all residents? This is basic service, just as police services are as well.

SonnyFab

October 20th, 2010
12:27 pm

There was a clear failure of something in this case. I don’t keep a plumber on retainer in case my toilet overflows. I wait for the clog, then get out the yellow pages because in a capitalist system, I can buy the services that I require when I require them. I can also buy insurance to cover the costs of things I do not want to risk having to pay for out of pocket. However, having to pay in advance for something I almost definitely will never use, and then NOT BEING A BLE to pay for it if I do happen to need it is DEFINITELY a failure. The failure here was that the government was the only entity with the equipment to fight fires, and the policy that it chose to put in place was that you had to pre-pay for its potential services or you could not get them. That is a lousy system.

John

October 20th, 2010
12:29 pm

@Ms. Norris

“In most unincorporated areas people are required to pay a special services tax to cover fire and police services.”

Would you be fine with the city of Atlanta saying they can’t cover the cost of police and fire services any longer; therefore, the city tell residents they must pick and choose which services they want and pay for each individual service?

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
12:32 pm

Government services should not be offered on an a la carte basis. The whole idea behind being part of a community is to pool your resources to provide basic services such as fire and police protection. No one knows when he or she might need those services. The fee should not have been optional.

It would be as if I could optionally pay that portion of my federal income tax that goes to national defense because I believe that the likelihood the bad guys are going to invade Atlanta are small.

John

October 20th, 2010
12:41 pm

Something to think about. Since the man didn’t pay the $75 fee beforehand, the fire department did not respond when he called. They only responded when the neighbor, who paid the fee, called and it was to save the neighbors home only. What if the neighbor was not home, or even worse, asleep in his home unaware of the fire next door. The fire spread to his home and he died in the fire. He paid his fee, did not get the service and as a result he lost his life. Would conservatives then feel there was a flaw in the system? Should anyone be held responsible for that? Or would people still blame the man who didn’t pay the fee?

carlosgvv

October 20th, 2010
12:42 pm

Has it occured to anyone there might have been small childred in that house? If we have reached the point where, because of money, we are willing to let small childred be burned alive, our Country is well on the way to the scrap heap of history.

UpstandingCitizen

October 20th, 2010
12:54 pm

The guy’s son was burning leaves too close to the house… so all this spewing is over some redneck teenager who isn’t smart enough to compost??? I say we go back to survival of the fittest and let the stupid people just kill themselves.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
12:55 pm

This guy was out in the country where there were no fire services. He had the option to pay the nearest fire dept. if he elected.

John

October 20th, 2010
12:59 pm

@skydog

“This guy was out in the country where there were no fire services.”

So living out in the country should be a reason to not have basic services provided for? Does he have police services?

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
1:03 pm

Upstanding Citizen

I thinnk your poast @ 12:54 suggests why your screen name is totally wrong.

One of the reasons why we have fire and other emergency services are to provide protection when accidents occur. The son may indeed have been burning leaves too close to the house given the circumstances. But we all make mistakes. So simply because he made a mistake we should let their house burn down?

What if you fell off a ladder in your home because you leaned over too far to paint a wall. Should we just let you lay there and bleed to death rather than have EMS services respond?

John

October 20th, 2010
1:04 pm

@UpstandingCitizen,

“I say we go back to survival of the fittest and let the stupid people just kill themselves.”

The sad thing is you probably actually belief that.

David

October 20th, 2010
1:30 pm

@carlosgvv … “Has it occured to anyone there might have been small childred in that house?”

Yes it did, and 911 asked if anyone was in danger and the owner replied “NO”

This whole issue is about a FD refusing to save his stuff, they were full ready to go out if anyone was in danger.

The guy lost stuff and no one was in danger.

David Shivers

October 20th, 2010
1:34 pm

Maybe next we’ll start billing crime victims or their estates for being robbed, assaulted, murdered, etc.

Gary

October 20th, 2010
1:37 pm

In my mind this is a failure of morality. The question is was it sound moral judgment for the county to direct those firefighters to allow this family’s house to burn down over 75 dollars? Was it sound moral judgment for this man to risk his family by not paying the fee? And was it sound moral judgment for those firefighters to obey an order that damaged another person in this manner? Being moral requires us to do the right thing even if the other party has done the wrong thing. So, I have this question then…is it moral to look at this and choose a side without considering the innocent lives that were devastated by this…the children of that family had nothing to do with any of it, but they were allowed to suffer and used as an example of what happens to people who don’t pay the fee. The county acted immorally…the dad acted immorally…and the firemen acted immorally….and they should all be ashamed of themselves for letting those children down.

John

October 20th, 2010
2:00 pm

@David,

“The guy lost stuff and no one was in danger.”

Did you read my earlier post? The next door neighbor, who paid his fee, could have been in danger had he been asleep and the fire spread to his house.

Mr. Spock

October 20th, 2010
2:21 pm

John…The $75 fee was what his local system set as the rules for fire services. I assume they pay taxes there too. Plain and simple.

John

October 20th, 2010
2:27 pm

Mr. Spock…could you answer to my earlier post. In case you didn’t see it, I’ll post it again.

Since the man didn’t pay the $75 fee beforehand, the fire department did not respond when he called. They only responded when the neighbor, who paid the fee, called and it was to save the neighbors home only. What if the neighbor was not home, or even worse, asleep in his home unaware of the fire next door. The fire spread to his home and he died in the fire. He paid his fee, did not get the service and as a result he lost his life. Would you then feel there was a flaw in the system? Should anyone be held responsible for that? Or would people still blame the man who didn’t pay the fee? What if you where the next door neighbor who paid the fee, should your house be allowed to burn down if you were not home to call the fire department yourself? What if you were not home and someone was asleep in your home, should they be allowed to burn to death because your neighbor didn’t pay his fee and no one from your home called the fire department?

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
2:34 pm

The amazing thing about this whole discussion is that when services are covered by taxes you aren’t denied services because your taxes have not been paid. The taxing authority will take action to enforce tax collection including lien, levy and seizure but the police would respond if you called them and the fire department would come and put out a fire.

Why should this service be optional?

carlosgvv

October 20th, 2010
2:39 pm

David

If there was no 911 call or the caller said “no children” but was mistaken, would you still advocate letting the house burn down?

A. J. C . Smith

October 20th, 2010
2:44 pm

Sounds fair to me. There ain’t no free lunch, except in Washington.

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
2:45 pm

Where is the free lunch?

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
2:45 pm

Where is the free lunch?

skydog

October 20th, 2010
3:03 pm

John said,
So living out in the country should be a reason to not have basic services provided for? Does he have police services?

John,
There are a lot of places in the country that don`t have fire services. Some have volenteer services.
Everywhere has police service although it may take um 1/2 a day to reach you in Wyoming.

I work for a large construction company who had a large project in Tennesee. There was a 40+ car pileup on the interstate in the fog right outside our gate. My co-workers immediatly started driving cranes and fork lifts out of the gate to unpile cars and save lives.
Each was told he would be fired if he took equipment off site.
Nobody stopped and they were fired later that day.

All got rehired when the Governor came down to award placks.

You have to do what is right and damn the BS.

John

October 20th, 2010
3:14 pm

“You have to do what is right and damn the BS.”

Couldn’t agree with you more. That’s my point, allowing a house to burn down and potentially putting lives at risk because someone didn’t pay a $75 fee is not the right thing to do.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
3:32 pm

Not right John, but it is a business.

What about the next time a dispatcher gets a call from a non paying member?
Does he let the trucks roll and get fired?

I let um roll and get fired, but I am one of those crazy libs.

John

October 20th, 2010
3:50 pm

Government is not a business. In this case, the fire services are provided for by the city but instead of paying taxes for the service, these people have to subscribe for the service and pay a fee for it.

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
3:53 pm

What a country we live in.

“Oh, there is a burglar in your house? Well let me see, oh no I don’t show that you paid for police so you are on your own” Click….

Fire protection is as much about protecting the property of the rest of the community as it is the person whose home or property is on fire.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
3:53 pm

Sounds like bad planning by county officials.
At the very least have an understanding that they will come to your house, if available and back charge you for the services.

Or maybe they have the system they want in place. No pay No service.
Like another poster said, If you miss a house insurance payment and your house burns, they will not pay, period.

Almost the same decison as health care. Do we let um die on the curb at the emergency room or fix um up? Right now we pay and try to recoup cost.
The money is there right now for healthcare. The powers just can`t figure out how to get there share if we change the system. The money is being paid right now, every day, for a new crap system. What we had was worse. 26% increases the last 5 years. CEO of United Health Care made $123 million dollars last year. One man who shuffles paper for a living. No band aids, no cranes.
That ain`t right. Total BS

skydog

October 20th, 2010
3:56 pm

No John. Their city has normal service, but thus guy live in the country where there is NO service. The city said they would cover county folks for a fee. They said this guy didn`t take the option.

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 20th, 2010
4:01 pm

I’m not a fireman and never have been but if I’d been on the scene, I think I would have tried to put the fire out and worry about the paper work later. Seems to me it would have been the decent thing to do.

skydog

October 20th, 2010
4:12 pm

Swede, You and John need to take a ride around this country.
There are thousands of places that don`t offer any services. The states/counties can not afford these services in remote areas.

John

October 20th, 2010
4:15 pm

Actually skydog, in this county five surrounding municipalities respond as needed, with three others responding only to subscribers. It’s not the city that said they would cover county folks for a fee…it’s the county’s policy. These people pay county taxes so why should they pay additionally for fire services.

Over the objections of firefighters and many residents, the Obion County commission voted 15 to 3 to expand subscription-based service throughout the county. Beginning July 2011, all fire departments in the area – including the five that have answered calls at no charge for the past three decades – will require residents to pay the annual fee. Fire chief Bob Reavis of Hornbeak, one of the municipalities in the county, had opposed the expansion of the “pay to spray” policy, arguing that more houses would burn. “It’s a public-safety issue,” he said. “Subscriptions should be left to newspapers and magazines.”

Here is the full article about they county commission’s vote to expand subscription-based service throughout the county.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20101020/us_time/08599202644500

John

October 20th, 2010
4:19 pm

Yet statistics show that in communities that have subscription fees for firefighting, less than 70% of people pay subscription fees, and that number is as low as 40% in the early years of a subscription campaign. In 2006, firefighters responded to 245 rural calls in Obion County. Assuming a 30% nonparticipation rate, Reavis said as many as 75 homes could have burned. The fire department of Rives, one of those responding as needed in Obion, does not charge a subscription fee but sends a $500 bill after it has rendered services. Reavis says, however, that half of the homeowners fail to pay.

At the conclusion of the meeting, many firefighters expressed disappointment but said they will abide by the commission’s rules. “It’s not the right thing to do,” said Stan Mitchell, a volunteer firefighter with the Rives Fire Department. “But I’ve been doing this too long to quit.”

“This ain’t the way to fix it,” Reavis concluded. “God save us all.”

skydog

October 20th, 2010
4:21 pm

Down in Morgan, Ga., My grandparents did not have fire protection or water or sewer for that matter.

Those older folks were smarter than us. They knew they were their own protection so they designed and built the kitchens (fueled by wood stoves) seperate from the house. They kept rain water in a cystern for fire fighting use. Their house is still there after 93 years. Water still taste like rust.

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
4:25 pm

Skydog, I was born and raised in rural Wyoming. I am well aware of the fact there are areas that are not covered.

The difference here is the area was covered under an agreement. But rather than simply assessing the fee as part of the relevant property taxes to include everyone the County Commission is playing games with the lives of people, animals and property.

The fact these firemen let animals die is another reason they need to be kicked in the groin repeatedly with a pair of my cowboy boots. Poor defenseless animals are left to die over $75.00.

The firemen should hang their heads in shame and self disgust.

Mr. Spock

October 20th, 2010
4:25 pm

John … If the man did not pay his fee and someone was in the house when it burned … they should be toast. That’s the consequence of being a cheap SOB or incompetent.

John

October 20th, 2010
4:27 pm

15 county commissioners voted to make all fire services in that county paid subscriptions including those who already have service provided without a paid subscription. Firefighters as well as residents are against it.

As Mr. Cranick has said in interviews, he pays his taxes which he believes part of it goes to the fire departments. If that’s the case, he questions why should he have to have a paid subscription on top of his taxes.

John

October 20th, 2010
4:29 pm

Mr. Spock…I see you still won’t answer my questions. So you don’t have to scroll, I’ll post it here again.

Since the man didn’t pay the $75 fee beforehand, the fire department did not respond when he called. They only responded when the neighbor, who paid the fee, called and it was to save the neighbors home only. What if the neighbor was not home, or even worse, asleep in his home unaware of the fire next door. The fire spread to his home and he died in the fire. He paid his fee, did not get the service and as a result he lost his life. Would you then feel there was a flaw in the system? Should anyone be held responsible for that? Or would people still blame the man who didn’t pay the fee? What if you where the next door neighbor who paid the fee, should your house be allowed to burn down if you were not home to call the fire department yourself? What if you were not home and someone was asleep in your home, should they be allowed to burn to death because your neighbor didn’t pay his fee and no one from your home called the fire department?

Swede Atlanta

October 20th, 2010
4:31 pm

Mr. Spock, you must be from another planet. You are clearly not of the human race.

What if there had been an accounting or record keeping error that showed the guy hadn’t paid?

What kind of value system do you operate under? Don’t tell me you are a Christian because your attitude reveals you are not.

John

October 20th, 2010
4:39 pm

Mr. Spock…you just showed how every conservative I’ve seen report on this thinks. If he didn’t pay, he’s a cheap SOB or incompetent…you forgot freeloader. Could it be possible a bill is overlooked or got lost in the mail? There’s no gray area, is there? Every homeless person chooses to be homeless. Every person who has been laid off and is collecting unemployment is a freeloader who doesn’t want to work. You must lead a pretty miserable life to always think so negatively and not give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Contempt prior to investigation.

John

October 20th, 2010
5:03 pm

@Swede Atlanta

“The firemen should hang their heads in shame and self disgust.”

It seems, according to Gene Cranick (the homeowner), they did. During an interview last week, Mr. Cranick said some were horrified and left in tears. He claimed they were pretty emotional but they were not allowed to help. While so much attention and blame has been directed to the homeowner, not much has been said about how this policy affect the actual fire fighters. As I have posted, the county commissioners have voted to extend the policy even though fire fighters and residents oppose it.

Hillbilly Deluxe

October 20th, 2010
5:12 pm

As I have posted, the county commissioners have voted to extend the policy even though fire fighters and residents oppose it.

Hopefully, the next time there is an election, those folks will be sent packing. And I tend to lean toward the conservative view on most things. Not all of us are heartless. ;-)

Mr. Spock

October 20th, 2010
5:16 pm

They should pay up or burn up. Far less freeloaders to worry about. My religious beliefs are not at issue.

John

October 20th, 2010
5:27 pm

No one made an issue of your religious beliefs. I notice; however, that you can’t defend your position by answering a few questions so you stick to “pay up or burn up”. Why can’t you defend your position and answer a few questions?

Mr. Spock

October 20th, 2010
5:30 pm

Because John… I stated my position very clearly. Becuase you choose not to agree with it, is not my problem. Therefore, John, you are an idiot. To waste time on an idiot is not logical.

John

October 20th, 2010
5:31 pm

Mr. Spock…I know trying to answer questions requiring some thinking and regurgitating what you heard from Glenn Beck doesn’t. But try…it’s not that difficult.