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South Fulton Firefighters Let the House Burn…You Get What You Pay For!

By now, I am sure most of you have read about the firefighters in Tennessee who allowed a house to burn to the ground because the owners did not pay the Fire Protection Subscription Fee.

You get what you pay for!

Guess what happens if I don’t pay my electricity bill? Water Bill? Telephone Bill? That’s right…they discontinue service.

That is exactly what happened here.

The fire occurred in Obion County (rural Tennessee). The County does not have their own fire department. South Fulton, a nearby City, does have a fire department. South Fulton offers fire protection (Fire Protection District) outside the city limits for a fee. That fee…a whooping $75 a year.

The owner of the house states he forgot to pay the bill.

Here is the catch…Even after calling 911, the homeowner agreed to pay the $75 fee. However, that is against South Fulton’s policy because no one would pay the fee unless their home caught fire.

This situation is a black eye for the fire service. The fault lies with the homeowners for not paying the $75 fee. However, the public will not view it as such. The media is also jumping on the band wagon…saying that the homeowner is the victim. The only thing that failed here was the homeowner not paying the fee. Everything else operated as it should.

Kieth Olbermann likens this to A la Carte Government…something new to come in the future. Actually, this has been going on for years. As a matter of fact, this is how fire departments were initially formed.

There are solutions for this situation.

  1. Make the $75 fee mandatory and attach it to a bill they have to pay.
  2. Form Volunteer Fire Departments in Obion County.
  3. Have Obion County pay an overall subscription fee to South Fulton covering everyone.
  4. Pay your bill

So many people are pointing the finger towards the fire department. Once again, they fail to look at policies. This is bigger than the fire department. If someone wants to change the policies they need to look to the South Fulton City Government.

What do you think?


Comments - Add Yours

  • Grinder12000

    That is 100 BS! Typical red neck hillbilly attitude – This fire department is an embarrassment to all firefighters (of which I am one)

    • Fire Critic

      Outside of the issue surrounding this fire, the embarrassment is that the County doesn’t have VFD’s to cover itself and they rely on the Fire Protection District from neighboring communities.

    • First Defense Fire Protection

      Apparently you don’t know the real issues involved. Rules and regulations exist for important reasons! Maybe you should seek some other kind of career if you are so embarrassed! We are small town USA and we have a fire department that exists in part due to county people who pay or remember to pay the annual fire protection fee. It might be interesting to know how man have now paid since the tragedy, I know the family and I feel for them. Instead of being so critical, why not reach into your pocket and help put them back into another dwelling?

      • Yep

        Your incoherent rambling is a total joke, whats the oath FIREMEN take? Yeah that pretty much sums it up right there. D-BAG!

        • Resq3man

          Yep, actually, First Defense made a reasoned, factual statement based upon the facts.

          You made a generalization that isn’t congruent with the facts of the case and ended with namecalling.

          Reasonable people form positions based upon the facts, as First Defense did.

    • Bill

      You’re right. These firefighting “heroes” are probably 300+ lb. lazy boneheads that are too busy filling their fat mouths with donuts to exert themselves to help save a family’s home. They should have all burned in h— instead of this person’s house

      • Resq3man

        Bill, That bogus generalization has exactly what to do with this?

    • Happyfireman408

      its not the fire departments fault they take orders just like everyone else does from city or county governments

      • Lconvis2

        Happyfireman 408 you have the choice to do something or sit there and watch property damage and loss of life. I found fire service a rush, and would jump into to almost anything. By the way I was a volunteer, and loved it.

        • Resq3man

          So, lcovis2, the South Fulton FD should have extinguished the fire because you find “fire service a rush”???

  • chiefreason

    Then Grinder, you shouldn’t take it so personally.
    There is more to the story than meets the eye.
    It wasn’t the fire department that failed.
    It was county government and an antiquated system for paying for fire protection that failed.

  • AGoodFollower

    Rules is rules. The rules say to let the mans house burn to the ground with his pets inside so that’s what we did. You can’t blame somebody for following the rules, right? I mean, rules are rules for a reason. They are infallible. They are writ in stone.

    • Kl_Duns

      So if there was a person inside, does the rules say to stand back and watch?

      • Fire Critic

        For me, the answer would be obvious. We would have made the rescue. However, I do not know what they would have done.

        To be quite honest I am not sure what I would have done in this situation (the fire, not people trapped).

        There are so many factors to think about.

        I do not work in an area such as this.

        Do you ask forgiveness afterwards for disobeying policy?

        What if someone elses house caught fire that paid the subscription fee and needed your resources. Would you be liable for not being able to respond?

        I think that in the end there will be many decisions to be made about this policy and the need for better fire protection in Obion County.

        • Lconvis2

          Thats a cop out. What your telling me is its more important to wait for another call (that may or may not happen) then it is to help this man who pleaded for help. I guess I really can say I am not impressed with people response to duty and service here.

        • Lconvis2

          Thats a cop out. What your telling me is its more important to wait for another call (that may or may not happen) then it is to help this man who pleaded for help. I guess I really can say I am not impressed with people response to duty and service here.

      • Fdfp

        No. They will enter into the situation if a human life is involved. Definitely so.

        • D!

          Yikes but the fee wasn’t paid!
          I’ll be damned if I allow someone to use resources “I” paid for.

          • Lconvis2

            I hope your never in a diaster and need help from others.

          • Lconvis2

            I hope your never in a diaster and need help from others.

      • stevenKan

        THere is a good moral question. What if their are children trapped?

    • Lconvis2

      But you have a moral and eithical response to the situation, you character shows with how you behave in the instance.

      • Resq3man

        The South Fulton showed their moral and ethical response. They had the courage to do the right thing instead of the unethical thing, which would have been to give a cheapskate homeowner who tried to cheat their system free fire protection when his neighbors paid for the same service.

        They also had the courage to do so despite the sh** storm they’ve taken from people who base their opinions on emotions and platitudes instead of the very real problems South Fulton FD faces.

    • Resq3man

      That is the system that Obion County has, and the county residents have shown over and over that they will refuse to have a tax-funded fire department – or ANY fire department.

      South Fulton is a small department that assists their much larger county neighbor out of nothing more than an attempt to help their neighbors. They can’t afford to do it for free. The onus of fire protection there is on the individual residents. Mr. Cranick chose to avoid his responsibility and he paid the price for his bad decision. That is not the fire department’s fault.

  • dave

    If 75.00 is gonna stop you from trying to put out a fire with live animals inside you should take your sorry ass somewhere else instead of taking a heroes job!

    • Fire Critic

      I want to agree with you. I would have a difficult time watching the house burn.

      I have not read about how involved the house was when the FD got there.

      However, like them or not, policies are in place for a reason. Right or wrong, the ones making the policies are not the firefighters.

      Their hands were tied.

      This issue is cut and dry, the only two groups you can point the finger at are the homeowner for not paying the fee and the policy makers for not allowing for on site payment or other options.

      It is not the FD’s fault.

      • Henry

        This is very true the home owner has a responsiblity to pay their bills. The policy makers however need to make some allowance for city personnel to do the job in an emergency situation. I say make a policy which allows for payment after the fact with a added find for being late on payment. that way the fire dept. can do what’s needed then bill afterward like with EMS billing.

        • Resq3man

          Henry, if they do that, no one will pay the subscription and the South Fulton FD’s already limited ability to provide fire protection to their neighbors in the county will go away.

          When that happens, EVERY burning house in the county will be destroyed, due to the county not having a fire department.

          What you are suggesting may or may not have saved the Cranick’s home, but it certainly would lead to limiting the SFFD’s ability to protect EVERY other county property owner in the future.

    • CBEMT

      Are you a hero?

    • Fdfp

      Now, now…your mother would be ashamed of your mouth! No animal is worth putting a life in danger. Not yours; not mine! If a human life is involved, the fire department will seek to rescue the endangered. Period! But the city cannot afford to endorse or promote those who will not or do not pay the annual fee. Period!

    • Resq3man

      OK Dave, exactly what is a “heroes job”?

  • Chris

    There has to be a sensible middle ground here. As in, put out the fire and bill the family a whopping total that is well beyond what they should have been paying all along, let’s just say $5,000 for the sake of argument. I agree with the premise that if bills can be routinely ignored they certainly will be, thus make the penalty for non-compliance not worth the gamble of ignoring the bill. People respond to financial incentives after all.

    The family should have paid the bill. Absolutely. Ever miss a water payment or a phone payment? These utilities typically don’t suspend service immediately, you get a late notice and a very nominal penalty and only then is your service deservedly suspended. Was the family deliberately delinquent or was this an honest mistake – they claim to have paid the fee in years past. We don’t have all the facts here. Regardless, when there isn’t time to gather all the facts, do you watch the house burn to the ground??? Common decency is what people are responding to here. Common decency demands you put out the fire first and sort out the details later.

    I think this is a pretty obvious case of two wrongs not making a right.

    • Resq3man

      Chris, the family received three mail notices and a phone call reminder from the FD before their subscription was cancelled, according to further information that has been linked on Firefighter Nation and elsewhere.

      The responsibility is solely the homeowners’. The SFFD did exactly what they were supposed to do – they protected the property owner that did not opt out of the way county fire protection is provided there.

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  • Butchpfd

    This is an unfortunate situation. The real blame belongs on the county commisioners who will not form a Fire Protection District, and the residents who are not willing to form a VFD for their own protection.
    Sadly you will see more of this as the do more with less becomes more prevalent.
    Question, you are a paying rural customer or city resident and have a fire and the department cannot respond because they are helping someone who for whatever reason failed to pay their fee. Will you complain or just smile because someone who didn’t pay got their home saved while your paid for property burned!

    • Resq3man

      It is the county citizens who refuse to form a county fire department. They elect county commissioners who vote the will of the people. The will of the people in Obion County, TN is that fire protection is an individual responsibility, not a government responsibility.

  • Jared Alexander

    I wonder what Connie Xinos, Dale Caupp and Dale Lauderback would have to say on this issue. I’m sure they’d applaud the strict adherence to the regulations. After all, the city of South Fulton saved money by not fighting this fire. Shame on the politicians and beaurocrats who put the fire department in this situation.

    I can only imagine the frustration and internal turmoil in the IC’s mind, facing a fire they couldn’t fight. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.

    And shame on the homeowner for failing to take due diligence and protect his property and family. I understand times are tight, but $75.00 is like not eating out twice for a family of three. So don’t eat out two times over the course of an entire year, and pay the fee that will ensure the basics of protection for your home.

    As we all comment here, remember, it’s very easy to armchair quarterback this issue. What’s really a problem is that we’re arguing amongst each other, rather than attacking the system and the media for putting ‘spin’ on this story. This made national news, yet the attack on firefighters in Oak Brook, IL has been largely ignored by the media. What’s the real problem here: This story can be sensationalized, while things much more important to our livelihood are ‘mundane’ to the media. Just a thought.

    • D!

      Correct…Let’s tell it as it is.
      a bunch of “Professional” fire fighters watched a house burn whose careless owner didn’t pay a 75$ annual fee which is the policy….kinda sad when you think about it.

    • Resq3man

      Jared, what those people think is not pertinent to the discussion, because their fire protection system is completely different: total apples and oranges comparison.

  • Rzrlvbonesaint

    The service should have been performed. PERIOD.

    There is no excuse or justification for not putting out the fire. If an ambulance is called to take you to a hospital, you get a bill for their services. The cowardly fire department could have done the same.

    They want the money up front to grow fat off of. But do not forget that the little city got help help from the everybody in the county to help pay for those fire trucks. The person they neglected pays his taxes which means he has paid for that service.

    • Resq3man

      You’ve got to be kidding me! The SFFD has a total annual operating budget of $8,000. They are not “getting fat” off of anything, let alone the money they get for protecting individual homeowners that chose to live in an area that has NO fire department.

      The SFFD has no responsibility to respond outside their city at all. They have no duty to even respond, let alone to extinguish the fire, outside the city, unless the individual homeowner signs a subscription contract with the city FD. They did exactly what the homeowner indicated he wanted over and over before the fire.

      The person in question pays NO fire taxes. He lives in an unincorporated area that has NO fire department and that pays NO fire taxes. He absolutely DID NOT pay for fire services, which is precisely why his home burned down.

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  • Timothyfg1970

    As a recently retired Fire Rescue Chief this flat peeves me off. I started my career two decades ago as a volunteer Firefighter/EMT and ended my career with the Honor of answering to the title of Chief (for those it matters to it was Career over a combination department) and not once during my career did I ever respond and fail to do my duty nor refuse to respond to call. When a call came in we went and did our job and duty. An this includes during the days I was with departments and districts that did not receive any tax funding, very little money from the state annually and lived mostly off of membership dues. The way it works is you respond to the call, do your duty and then when the flames are out you find out if the property owner is a dues paid member, if they are not you give them five business days to get into the office and pay their dues and if they did not you sent them a bill for services (for us it started at $350 for the first truck $150 for each additional truck and if over 4 hours was spent on the call it was an extra $100 per truck per hour), (hum might their insurance pay it) and if they did not pay the bill in six months after legally required notices were sent you sued them and/or got the state A.G. to collect it for you (which they always did even if it was in payments). Now the Authority that the Fire Chief answers to needs removed from office and the Chief Officers of the department need relieved of duty, the SOG’s/SOP’s and administrative policies need reworked and the rank and file firefighters need retrained on duty, ethics and morals. They had a professional duty, ethical, moral and legal responsibility to disobey unlawful orders and fulfill their duty to their community and thy neighbor. In my entire career I have never seen a basic firefighting manual that did not have the following in its first chapter if not in the first couples of pages (straight from the National Fire Protection Association) “The Goals of Firefighting are (in order of priority) personal safety, saving victims’ lives, saving property and protecting the environment” no where do I see anything about dues or money. The rank and file firefighter and line officers are suppose to worry about their duty and maintaining the oath of service they took. The Chief Officers and the authority that the Chief answers to are suppose to worry about the money and that concern should NEVER stop a department from performing its duties to the community in times of emergency calls.
    Timothy F. Griepp Fire Chief (Ret.)

  • Sirflying

    To The South Fulton Fire Department:
    Let a mans home burn to the ground after he offers to pay ALL expenses(not just $75 as the blogger writes) because he did not pay the 75 dollars in what appears to be extortion is disgusting.
    Not a day that your department will recover from anytime soon.. After all honor is something earned over a great deal of time..MUCH longer when you and your department have a blight like this to embrace.
    Oh! One more thing.. If we have a firefighter in Yakima WA. to die in the service of his community we don’t need any such as you stinking the place up. Stay home!!! It is a time for those with honor to gather and pay their respects. You and your department DON’T qualify.

    Gary Lee Connor

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  • Lconvis2

    I worked as a volunteer fire fighter. I would never have walked away from someone in need because they did pay the fire protection fees. The reason you volunteer is service to the community. Here in Washington State, we pay taxes for both Fire Service and EMS.
    So Joe, you come to my hospital and need life saving treatment but you don’t have insurance, what am I going to do. Treat you, with the best care I can.
    So Joe, someone is breaking in your house, and you call 911. The operator tells you, I am sorry you didn’t pay your yearly fees. What will your family do?
    Until we work together as a community, nothing will get better. Do not lay the blame on just one person, but everyone that puts up with this situation. We live in a country with many freedoms, and many problems. But we solve them by working together.
    By the way the home owner said he forgot to pay the fee. So why not let him pay the fee plus a fine for being late. And yes shame on the fire fighters for not doing anything, shame on the Chief for not making an exception. From the fire fighters oath “To guard my every neighbor

    And protect his property”. He could have fought the good fight and came away knowing that he did what was morally and ethically right. His choice, he could have been the hero, but he chose to be the butt end of someone fist and followed the letter of the contract. I don’t condone violence, but he would have tempted me big time. Thank god our fore fathers didn’t follow the letter of the law. Then where would be!

    • Resq3man

      What you do in Washington has no bearing on how a Tennessee county chooses to do it.

  • Lt.J

    Replying to Timothyfg1970:

    Points well taken Chief. To All – I might add, with over 60% of all homes in the U.S. now owning companion animals (even in this bad economy!!), that FD was very fortunate that they did not suffer a civilian fire fatality with one of the property owners attempting to make entry to rescue one of their animals during that incident, irregardless of how involved the structure may have become. Its key to recall there were a number of civilian fatalities during Hurricane Katrina because of this – the persons had been rescued, but tried to make re-entry into their homes after dark behind the backs of the rescue agency personnel in an attempt to save their animals. They drowned trying. This was the reason for the federal law called the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 signed into law by Pres Bush. As firemedics, we are the only true advocate between our medical patient OR a fire victim and an incompetent other. As for the unpaying homeowner, I can’t begin to tell you how many citizens delay paying their EMS transport bill in my city. Do we stop providing EMS service to them until they pay? (And they owe HUNDREDS of dollars!) Absolutely not. Morally and ethically that Fire Chief and his officers should hang their heads in shame, and their city adminstrators should be run out of town – a sad day for the fire service indeed.

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  • Lt.B

    A similar instance occurred in our area except there weren’t any fees involved. Our department has a policy of handling the call and worry about payment later. The department in question here contacted the owner three times by mail and a further three times by phone to remind him of the fee. The owner took no action. I think the fire department should have extinguished the fire, but billed the owner using rates for each vehicle and person involved, similar to hazmat recovery cost.

  • org supporter

    The International should take a step back and look at how this incident plays out on the national scene. The Republicans are calling for less government. This means cutting first responder services. What individual does not ask the question, ‘who will take care of my fire or theft now’? An outsource company? A Pay-at-the-Pumper organization? Yeah, they come running and yelling at government for these basic services. Example; the Deepwater Horizon spill in the gulf. Did Governor Jindal ask BP for help? Everyone leader was asking for FEMA and the Coast Guard to take control.
    This should be more ammunition against these ludicrous conservative blurtings.

    • MAEMTB

      And while you wrote this in 2010, here in 2013 your words echo so sharply in the wake of the West, Texas tragedy.

  • Medic911

    Personally I think that the fee should be incorporated in the taxes.

    In this situation, if someone doesn’t pay the $75 they should have to pay an hourly rate for the fire dept to be there to put out the fire… what that would be I don’t know, where I’m from if the city comes out to put out the fire, they charge the rural service $300/hr/firefighter. The guy in this instance was willing to pay whatever so they should have done their jobs and charged the guy appropriately.

    That’s my two cents… as too what I would’ve done if I were on that dept…. well I wasn’t there so I’m not going to comment on that.

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  • Pandorasboxes

    Just curious, as a former emergency worker, if the man watched the fire spread from his field to his home, why didn’t he take precautions to remove any animals he claims to have had in his home long before the fire got there? If he also had his son experience a previous fire and a situation where his family had not paid for the fire insurence bill a few years before, then why would he NOT make sure it was paid and up to date on his own home?

  • getwhatyoupayfor

    What a horrible loss for these fine people, however, should the firefighters risk their jobs and possibly injury for an individual that has decided not to pay for service? If those firefighters got hurt or died in that fire, would their local government take care of them or would they discipline them (not cover their injuries or funeral expenses) for disobeying a direct order. Yes they could risk everything to do what from the outside seems like the right think to do, and get fired. You blame the Firefighters for not acting on the event; this was predictable and probably discussed at the town hall meetings. Find fault with their elected officials, not the employees.

    Buy the way, I have decided that I will no longer pay for my car, medical, and auto insurance. But if I have a fire at my home, break my leg, or crash my car, I will simply call my insurance company and tell them I want to start paying; immediately. Think I will get away with it? Well if I don’t, I will blame everyone else, then sue the government for allowing me to go about my business without paying for insurance.
    This horrible event sheds light on the need for communities to properly fund their public safety.