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Rural Residents Seek Changes in Fire Policy After House Allowed to Burn

"But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29

This is a sad tale of some poor soul whose house burned down while a neighboring fire dept. watched:

"...a group of about 25 rural residents who showed up (at the South Fulton Municipal Building ) to voice their concern over a July 2 fire on Lakeview Drive in which service was refused because the property owner/resident had not paid a $75 rural fire protection annual fee.

It has been a part of the city's fire policy since 1990 to refuse service to non- subscribers.

The house, occupied by the Richard Cruse family, was a total loss."


What's most interesting is this story is from 2008, and South Fulton, Tennessee never did change its fire policy. It's plainly stated that the policy had been in effect since 1990, yet it appears some folks never learned the lesson:


Tennessee Tragedy: Family Had No Fire Service But Had Some Insurance.

"The Obion County, Tenn. family whose home burned on Sept. 29, (2010), while firefighters watched from their truck has insurance to payoff their mortgage but not enough to cover everything lost or to rebuild, according to the family and their insurance agent.


The fire chief of the nearby city of South Fulton refused to put out the fire that took the home of Gene and Paulette Cranick because they were not on the list of property owners who had paid the $75 annual subscription fee for fire protection services. Property owners outside the South Fulton city limits must pay a fee if they want the service; the county does not offer fire service."


When Cranick's fire spread to a neighbor's property, the South Fulton Fire Dept. responded to protect that property. The neighbor had paid their $75 annual subscription fee.


Another sad tale, to be sure. No one wants to see his neighbor's house burn down, but by my calculations, $75.00 per year divided by 12 months equals $6.25 per month. I don't like to kick a man when he's down, but that spells "irresponsible cheap-skate" in my part of the world. And I'd sure hate to look my family in the eye after such a preventable conflagration.


South Fulton is located in N.W. Tennessee. It's 2009 population was 2,391. 2008 Per capita income: $19,740. It has one high school school, 5 grocery stores, one mayor, four council men, and, obviously, a (mostly volunteer) municipal fire department, which operates on a annual budget of $205,000 a year. The big city, it ain't.


South Fulton residents are provided fire service via their city taxes. For rural fire protection, someone has to pay for the equipment and manpower. The $75.00 / yr annual fee is simply a down payment on a contract for services. According the the city's fire regulations, an additional $500.00 is charged to the subscribing property owner each time the South Fulton fire department responds to a rural fire emergency, probably billed through home owner's insurance. For rural residents, it sounds like a fair deal to me, and much preferable to the pre-1990 arrangement in which there was no agreement for any sort of fire protection, from anyone - including the Obion county. South Fulton's mayor, David Crocker, summed it up succinctly - "you either accept it or don't."


Yet, it's the small town politicos of South Fulton, Tenn. who are being portrayed as the devil's own spawn for not providing a deep pocket of tax dollars and man-power upon which to care for any non-paying county resident who haphazardly strays into South Fulton's tiny sphere of influence. According to some indolent critics, responsibility for not burning down your neighbor's house is a one way street, and a mess for other citizens to clean up.


The liberal trolls at the likes of the Daily Kuss, Huffy-poo, and the oddly named Think Progress use this tragedy of to demonize -of all things- the TEA party, and pursue reductio ad absurdum as proof for the pernicious and cruel nature of limited government. After all, the Cranick's pet died. The fire chief must resign. The Cranick's son simply cannot be held responsible for burning barrels of trash, which started the blaze. Logic is further tortured to (erroneously) conclude that since evil Republicans were responsible for this subscription fire service, social security is in eminent danger of being dismantled. Or something.


According to the Fulton News Leader, in 1990, a yellow dog democrat Mayor, Dr. Charles Rice, and his 2 man city council, extended the offer of fire protection to their neighbors in the outlying rural areas. Resolution 90-6 was passed. It was their response to Luke 10:29.


But they knew their small town's limited resources would not bear that burden, so the rural residents were asked to share in the cost. Those residents agreed. That was the rural neighbors response to Luke 10:29 - helping their neighbors by sharing the burden. It works both ways. Fire fighters - who have jobs and families and risk their lives - are your neighbors, too. And, like any good Baptist community, it was democratic and voluntary: "you either accept it or don't."


Now, one can argue the rightness or wrongness of such a model for emergency service, invoking Aristotle's 'greater good' ethic, or moral hazard arguments, or silly 'WWJD?' discussions, and whether there should be an 'exception clause' (there is), but these people are human beings doing the best they can in an imperfect world full of hazards. This is the model in place. This was agreed. What is the alternative? Turn the clock back to pre-1990? Or respond to any and all regardless of payment till the system is upside down, under water, and South Fulton unable to provide fire protection for even it's own tax paying citizens? Who would that benefit?


And isn't that a microcosm of the macro disasters we see bankrupting our Western states flooded with people swamping an alphabet soup of social welfare agencies when these people contribute little or nothing to support those welfare systems? Of course, that attitude is blasphemous to any big government liberal. Our entitlement society demands anything must be provided to everyone who asks. After all, there must be a money tree out back, someplace. Or an evil rich person to force tax dollars from.


Last I looked, Obion County had no fire department and the citizens have made no plans to levy county taxes to start one, yet there is no discussion about the irresponsibility in that non-action, merely demonization of those trying to work within an imperfect system, under agreed upon terms, that other citizens pay to provide. But this seems to be where we are at in our national discussion, self-absorption and entitlement rule the day.


So, who is my neighbor? My neighbor should be one who asks not what I will do for him, but what he could do for me. Like raising rural county funds to provide their own fire service - and maybe put out fires in neighboring towns. I'll even help pay for it.


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Comments (70)

Simple solution is that you... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Simple solution is that you can charge people up front for fire protection and they get a discounted rate. If they don't pay you put out he fire and then charge them a significantly higher rate. This would serve to avoid turning the fire department into a bunch of sociopathic bastards.

So cheapskates deserve to h... (Below threshold)
Elizabeth:

So cheapskates deserve to have their house burned down and lose their pets? You are very mean-spirited.

And what if, after the fire... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

And what if, after the fire department puts out the fire, you refuse to pay? Is the fire department going to put a lien against your ashes?

The problem with this story, as I see it, is not that someone didn't pay $75 and so had fire service refused. It's that someone didn't pay $75, and so his neighbor's property, that was covered by the $75, caught fire.

Fire protection is a collective action problem, and as such, it is proper for government to mandate buying into it.

Hate to say it, but if the ... (Below threshold)
MrJimm, Chicago:

Hate to say it, but if the Fire Dept put out the fire, then nobody in their right mind would pay for fire protection any more after that. I think they did the right thing.

Ya, I understand the issue ... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Ya, I understand the issue about funding in a small town and all that, but I'm really not too keen on turning public fire departments into systems that allow these kinds of situations to happen.

As far as overall tactics, I think jim m has a decent idea--make it an incentive to just pay the cheaper rate up front. But there also has to be some kind of exception for communities or families who are extremely poor. I mean, I think turning the FD into some pay-per-use service isn't the right way to go. It kind of sets up a bad precedent, especially when people's lives and livelihoods can be in danger. Just my opinion.

In the end, I think it's a really bad idea for the FD to be standing around watching people's houses burn down, regardless of whether or not people paid their yearly bill. Put out the fire, hash out the rest later.

JShuler,"Fire prot... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

JShuler,

"Fire protection is a collective action problem, and as such, it is proper for government to mandate buying into it."

Ya, and this is probably not an issue for the majority of the population, especially with such a nominal fee (which can also be collected via taxation).

But, what happens when a family literally doesn't have the money? What happens if there is some kind of mistake with verification of who paid and who didn't? What happens if there is some sort of clerical error?

Hell, this reminds me of the times that I sat in the ER waiting room with a pretty serious condition while my damn insurance company f-ed around trying to verify my insurance before they would do ANYTHING. Later, my doc basically told me: "Ya, that could've killed you." Fan-tastic!

I get the motive here, but I think as far as public policy goes this isn't a productive way to take things.

The firefighters should hav... (Below threshold)
Dane:

The firefighters should have saved the house and then charged the owner with the cost of saving it.

Yes, if he'd paid the insurance saving his house would have cost him $75 plus $500. Ok, he didn't have the insurance -- so you still save his house and you charge him $3000 or whatever it costs to save his house.

And yet, the idea that a community supports its neighbors and helps them out even when they make bad choices is now virtually non-existent in the world of the Tea Party.

Let's use another example. Someone who doesn't have health insurance and comes down with a serious illness. Do you turn them away when the come to the hospital or do you find a way to help them despite the fact that they don't have insurance?

In the tea party world you let them die without treatment.

Cutting taxes has it consequences... it takes us closer and closer to a world where Americans stand by with their hands in their pockets and watch their neighbor's home burn down.

That's where the Sarah Palins and Glenn Becks of this country are taking us.

But, what happens ... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:
But, what happens when a family literally doesn't have the money?
Then they don't own their own house, and are renting, or, if you're really so concerned, they are covered by tax exemptions for the poor, just like everything else. (I'd argue that such free riders should also not be allowed to vote, but that's a whole 'nother discussion)
What happens if there is some kind of mistake with verification of who paid and who didn't?
Why would this be an issue? There's no option to not pay it, i.e. your local or county taxes pay for it, not an optional $75 fee. Did you even read my comment before responding?
In the last days of the rep... (Below threshold)
yetanotherjohn:

In the last days of the republic of Rome (just before it became imperial Rome), the richest man in the city offered a fire service (manned by slaves). They would rush to the fire and then negotiate. Often, the burning building would be purchased for sestertius on the aureus. After the sale, the fire department would try to put out the fire. Sometimes they saved the building, but worse case they had bought the lot. The richest man in Rome got richer.

Let's look at the logic of jim m. The idea is essentially you can buy insurance ($75/yr) which you may or may not use vs. paying the retail rate if you didn't pre-pay (do we get to negotiate)? Of course this wouldn't pass muster with Obama as he doesn't give you an option on health care but decides for you that you must purchase health care insurance, no option to pay "retail".

How do we set the rate? An average cost to respond to a fire, worse case cost, actual cost? Can the town use the opportunity to plug some other budget holes and charge just a bit more? Perhaps we shouldn't look at cost but value provided. Wouldn't a price of 10% the value of the home be more than fair (vs a 100% loss)? Or maybe charge based on the percentage of the house saved.

Let's assume for a moment a price of $1000 was set for responding to a fire if you didn't pre-pay. A bargain vs the cost of the house surely. What if the owner didn't have $1000. Do you then foreclose on the house to recover the unpaid bill? What if another town offers to fight fires for $500. Can I wave off the $1000 fire department? Apparently not as jim m would force you to pay whether you wanted to or not. Of course at $1000, why pay the $75 per year. I would have to have the fire department come out every 12.5 years to break even (not including interest I could earn on the $1000).

How far is the town get to cast it's net? The left seems to view the limits of the law as what they want, not something that has definite boundaries. If the town can set up a bargain outside of the city limits (i.e. beyond their jurisdiction), why can't they set their rate based on actual cost, charge for responding whether or not they accomplish anything and then start charging for fires in the next county or state? Heck, why not start sending bills to Canada when a house fire starts up. "Dear sir or madam, Sorry about the fire. We sent our fire department, but they didn't get there before the house burned down. Please send us $1000 to cover our costs. P.S. You may want to consider $75/yr subscription for the future."


Now jim m seems to feel that these firemen are
"a bunch of sociopathic bastards". What would have happened if before they went to the house, they looked up the payment rolls and then just not responded. Would jim m have ever heard of this incident? Is all that is really wrong here "bad optics" of the firemen responding to a fire to be ready if the paying house next door gets in trouble?

The sum of this is the debate between left and the right. Jim m's solution is to force a bargain by the government and ignore anything as mundane as a constitution that would limit the scope of the bargaining solution. The right's solution does tend to let adults be adults, make their own decision and live with the consequences. But jim m is only thinking about how to save the firemen from turning into "a bunch of sociopathic bastards".

In order for the elevated r... (Below threshold)

In order for the elevated rate at time of service instead of before the fire occurs would have to be more than 300 times the price of the upfront costs. 117,000,000 households in 2009. 377,000 residential fires. chance of a house fire, on in 311. Price for up front insurance type fire protection $75. Price for at time of service fire activities, $23,000. If the fire department charged any less, then it is better for every home owner to just pay after the fact, because the chances of their home catching fire in any given year is essentially 0.3%.

Dane, if this was a communi... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

Dane, if this was a community-run fire service, as opposed to a government-run fire service, the fire would have been put out regardless of whether he paid. How do I know this? Because many hospitals are also community-run services, not government-run, and people who can't pay get treated all the time. It's been that way for HUNDREDS of years.

Community-run organizations answer to the morals and values of the community that runs them.

Government-run organizations answer to the procedures of the bureaucracy that runs them.

As you want government-run health care, your objection in this case paints you as a moron.

Burn baby, burn.... (Below threshold)

Burn baby, burn.

Honestly, I think the fire ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Honestly, I think the fire department did the right thing here, though I think there may be a better option for fire protection. Either the county should take set up a fire department, or there should be some provision made for responding to nonpaying people.

Also, it's worth noting that NOBODY DIED IN THE FIRE. So ultimately, what was burned was a home and its contents. Stuff. Property. And if a person did not take the steps needed to provide for the protection of that property ... then that person suffers the loss. Period.

JShuler,T... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

JShuler,

Then they don't own their own house, and are renting, or, if you're really so concerned, they are covered by tax exemptions for the poor, just like everything else. (I'd argue that such free riders should also not be allowed to vote, but that's a whole 'nother discussion).

Interesting. Lose your income, and lose your right to vote. Another fantastic idea! Do you always assume that poor people who can't afford certain services are "free riders"? So are US farmers who lose their lands and livelihoods just a bunch of slackers? Are rural miners in Kentucky who happen to be hit hard by this economic disaster people who should not receive basic public services?

Why would this be an issue? There's no option to not pay it, i.e. your local or county taxes pay for it, not an optional $75 fee. Did you even read my comment before responding?

Of course I read your comment. You seem to be assuming that the system will work perfectly. I am asking you how the FD is going to verify who paid and who didn't. How do they decide who is covered? Sometimes people don't pay their taxes. Sometimes the IRS and other institutions screw up and thinks people didn't pay their taxes. It happens all the time. So then what? Are you arguing for some sort of verification, or are you arguing that the FD should just do its job and leave the tax collection to govt?

There's an interesting patt... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

There's an interesting pattern in the comment sections of blog posts concerning this topic:

Whenever the "just put the fire out" side is confronted with the problem of making that system viable, so that future fires will also be put out, they fall silent and pretend that the question does not exist. What happens when someone doesn't pay? How do you collect the bill? On comment section after comment section, these questions are brought up and no one from the "just put the fire out" side dares to even attempt to answer them.

I mean, in the case that prompted this whole debate, this wasn't even the first time his house caught fire and the fire department came out! So, clearly, the issue of payment after-the-fact is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. But, I hear only crickets from those who assert that it's a reasonable approach.

It's an implicit admission that their position is fatally flawed. Left to them, no one in that town would have fire protection. But hey, that's the moral position, apparently: let everyone's house burn!

James H:"So ultima... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

James H:

"So ultimately, what was burned was a home and its contents. Stuff. Property. And if a person did not take the steps needed to provide for the protection of that property ... then that person suffers the loss. Period."

Except for that there is more to it than just a period, end of story. What happens with the now homeless family? Who takes care of them? If they lose everything, then what? So the public services stand by and let the house burn because the family didn't pay. Great. Then, the family, now homeless and broke, has to call on OTHER public services for support. The effects of public policies like this can certainly become exponentially problematic, all for a $75 fee. And the larger surrounding community or society can certainly be affected. Ya, not a good overall plan in my book. This is why we try to have public services that serve communities as a whole.

ryan a, in this case, you a... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

ryan a, in this case, you are being a complete idiot, as the system I describe is used in 95% of the country, and we don't have the problem of fire departments not putting fires out.

The reason this is news is because it's a novel approach to fire fighting with a built in moral dilemma. The rest of the country, which uses exactly the same system I support, does not have this problem.

Do you always assume that poor people who can't afford certain services are "free riders"? So are US farmers who lose their lands and livelihoods just a bunch of slackers?

Oh, neat argumentation. Do you always believe that you can simply switch out one term that means one thing, with another that means something else, and by treating them as identical, you will be making some kind of point?

But, by definition, someone who does not pay for a service is a free rider. In what crazy-ass universe do you live that riding without paying constitutes something else?

re: 15Well put. ... (Below threshold)
epador:

re: 15

Well put. Not much more to be said about this. I've lived in rural NW Tennessee. This is not a new or unusual situation. The fire department of a nearby town offers a service for a fee. If you don't subscribe, you don't get it. This was a sad but appropriate response by the Fire Department. I suspect if someone's life was at stake they would have attempted rescue.

I had to respond to the botched attempt to make an allusion to ER and health care access. 1) if only your stuff and not your life was at stake, you wouldn't be getting emergency care regardless of ability to pay. At least not yet. 2) many avenues exist in the US to obtain care and medication for free or minimal cost if you are truly indigent. Its not ideal, but there is a system and it generally works for those able to handle simple forms and follow through on things.

"ryan a, in this case, you ... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

"ryan a, in this case, you are being a complete idiot, as the system I describe is used in 95% of the country, and we don't have the problem of fire departments not putting fires out."

No need to be a dick, JShuler. It's not as if I can read your mind based upon a few lines of text and figure out exactly what you're arguing for. It sounded like you were arguing for something a little different, and I was trying to see where you were going. I thought you were making an argument that was still based upon some sort of verification before the FD would act.

"Oh, neat argumentation. Do you always believe that you can simply switch out one term that means one thing, with another that means something else, and by treating them as identical, you will be making some kind of point?"

Fair enough. I think I thought you were using the term as akin to something like "freeloader," which has some obvious negative connotations. I think your ideas about taking away the right to vote had something to do with it, since you seemed to have a somewhat negative view of such people. But hey, if you're just using this as a non-evaluative, descriptive term, great.

Sounds like the rural resid... (Below threshold)

Sounds like the rural residents have had at least twenty years to form their own fire protection district if they wanted to. They could have petitioned their county government, or they could have formed on on their own. They could have asked for a parcel fee, or they could have solicited contributions or subscriptions. (Sounds to me like $75/year would have been a lot cheaper!)

The policy was in place for twenty years. It was revisited two years ago under similar circumstances and was not changed. It should not have taken anyone by surprise.

Someone mentioned that this guy was cheap. He bought as little insurance as he could get by with. I know Obamacare wants to force us to buy insurance. Should the government have forced this man to buy more insurance? To pay the annual fee? Or does freedom come with consequences?

No need to be a di... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:
No need to be a dick, JShuler. It's not as if I can read your mind based upon a few lines of text and figure out exactly what you're arguing for. It sounded like you were arguing for something a little different, and I was trying to see where you were going. I thought you were making an argument that was still based upon some sort of verification before the FD would act.
My very first comment here highlighted the problem of the fire department actually allowing the property of someone who had paid the $75 to catch fire by not putting out the first guy's house. That led me to describe fire protection as a collective action problem. How do you get a verification system from that?
Fair enough. I think I thought you were using the term as akin to something like "freeloader," which has some obvious negative connotations. I think your ideas about taking away the right to vote had something to do with it, since you seemed to have a somewhat negative view of such people. But hey, if you're just using this as a non-evaluative, descriptive term, great.
Well, that was a throw-away line. But, for more description, it wouldn't be if you are poor you cannot vote, it is if you choose not to pay taxes, you cannot vote. There's a big difference. The former only punishes the citizen, while the later can be used as a weapon by the citizen(don't feel represented? don't give them your money. Economy pounding down on you and the government wants to raise your taxes? F#&! that!). Although there would need to be consistency from the tax payer, so they don't limit tax payment to election years only.
If you ask me the fire dept... (Below threshold)
jim m:

If you ask me the fire dept got lucky that there wasn't anyone left in the house they watched burn.

I disagree that by putting out the fire they would have created a disincentive to pay the fee. Penalizing the homeowner by charging him costs plus a fee would take care of that, and yes, put a lien on the property of need be.

The town I live in, the fire dept has floated charging non-residents for services rendered in auto accidents. The point is that people need fire dept services. If they haven't paid the taxes they still need them. If it is a question of being able to cover non-residents or non-participants in the fire protection district, the answer is not to stand by and watch their houses or their lives perish, but to do the job and then charge them.


Standing by and watching the house burn down was sick and sadistic. It taught the fire dept that money was more important than people's lives. That it's OK to let it burn if you haven't been paid yet.

I'll ask those who cheer on the fire dept if they would feel the same if the fireman's union was protesting their union contract by refusing to do the work they are called to. It is no different. There is no difference if they are protesting not being paid or not being paid enough. They have reduced the issue to one of dollars and cents.

And unlike #9 yetanotherjohn, who apparently thinks I'm a liberal (ROTFLOL), I'm not concerned about the optics of the event or about turning the fire dept into sociopathic bastards. It is what it is and they are what they are. The fire dept could have made a better decision. It could have put the fire out and charged the expenses. Other communities such as my own have mustered the brain power to solve this equation.

It isn't liberal to suggest that the fire dept should have put out the fire and charged the homeowner or the expense. Liberal thinking would demand free fire protection. I suggested putting it out and then charging PLUS a penalty. Then the homeowner can still make the same decision that he did before. He very well may end up in the same place, not being able to afford the cost of the fire protection, but at least he;d still have some of his possessions.

In the tea party world y... (Below threshold)
cirby:

In the tea party world you let them die without treatment.

Funny - in a Democrat-run world, you let their house burn down... and then whine about why the local politicians (yes, once again, Democrats) failed this poor guy.

The chief did the right the... (Below threshold)
TNfireman:

The chief did the right there here and should not lose his job. This was a city department, not a county wide department. The soreness here is they sit and watched it burn. Alot of people I have talked to let thier emotions talk, before logic. I too, am a FF here in TN. I volunteer at a department that has the same setup. City funded budget that collects a rural fire service fee for contracts on a 'quicker' service than the county department. Very similar to a supplemental life insurance or health insurance plan.

With that said, I really hope this sends a clear message to the importance of being a volunteer and how just because you own or rent a home or property, doesn't always entitle you to the best service. If Obion county thought it was an important issue, they would have chartered South Fulton for the entire county or startup another department to cover the county. Shame on you Obion county, for not protecting your residents and more worried about street signs and sidewalks.

"Whenever the "just put the... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"Whenever the "just put the fire out" side is confronted with the problem of making that system viable, so that future fires will also be put out, they fall silent and pretend that the question does not exist. What happens when someone doesn't pay? How do you collect the bill? " - JSchuler

I haven't done so. I have suggested charging for the expense plus a fee for not subscribing. Yes you can put a lien on the property. If they don't pay the bill you recover what you can by selling the property in a tax auction.

Good grief! Do you people really have that little understanding of how local public finance and taxes work? Fire protection normally comes out of your property taxes. If you do not pay that what happens? Come on JSchuler. You're smart enough to figure this out. The answer is that you lose you house because the county will seize it and auction it off.

Are you really that stupid that you don't know?!

Are you really that stupid that you don't realize that the homeowner that the fire dept DID come out to service would never have even needed that service if the fore dept got off their greedy asses and put the fire out in the first place?

I've even given the example of the town where I live charging non-residence for motor vehicle accident services. This is nothing new. This is an easily solved issue. They should have done their jobs and charged the negligent homeowner for it. Instead they allowed a controllable fire to damage the property of someone who did subscribe.

If I were the homeowner whose house was damaged unnecessarily I'd be pretty pissed. Why should I have to suffer because my neighbor was negligent? Please explain why the people who subscribed had to suffer unnecessarily? Now who's being silent?

Good grief! Do you... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:
Good grief! Do you people really have that little understanding of how local public finance and taxes work? Fire protection normally comes out of your property taxes. If you do not pay that what happens? Come on JSchuler. You're smart enough to figure this out. The answer is that you lose you house because the county will seize it and auction it off.

Are you really that stupid that you don't know?!


Except that when I don't pay my property taxes, my homes is still a home, instead of a soggy pile of charred timbers.

In other words: there's far more value there for the government to recoup, than after a fire.

This gets down to the very ... (Below threshold)
greg:

This gets down to the very heart of the question, if a man is drowning, do you jump in or do you check to see if he can pay you? Death cult. And btw, animals are more precious than humans. They've been around a lot longer too.

JShuler,"How do yo... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

JShuler,

"How do you get a verification system from that?"

Look, clearly we were talking past one another somewhat. It happens. If you look at my response, I immediately asked you about the verification issue in order to try to clarify what you were arguing for.

Ultimately, you're just arguing for the system the vast majority of us already have. So there's not much of an issue here, is there? I asked you some of these questions because I didn't just assume that I knew exactly what you were arguing for.

A slight misunderstanding. No big deal.

It occurs to me that the ar... (Below threshold)
jim m:

It occurs to me that the argument for those who say that letting the house burn was the right decision is that 1) it's the homeowner's fault for not paying and 2) saying that the fire dept should have put the fire out anyway is somehow a 'big government' solution.

As to #1, yes it is the homeowner's fault for not subscribing to the service. But if the fire dept had just done the job and put out the fire they could have charged him for that service. Yes incomes are low in that area, but his choice would be to sell and move or have his property seized. Either way he would still have a property and it would have greater value than it does today. There would be something to use to get back that expense.

As to #2, suggesting hat the government charge non-subscribers for using the system is hardly a liberal or a big government idea. Saying that government should cover everyone at every time for free is.

I work in health care. Does a hospital have the right to turn away a patient if they do not have insurance? No, they do not. You treat the person. Nobody would countenance a hospital turning away a non paying patient. Somehow this is different.

Anyone who has read my posts here knows how much against obamacare I am, but this has nothing to do with forcing people into insurance or anything like that. It is about doing the right thing. The fire should have been put out and the homeowner charged for the service. That's not liberal it's just the right thing to do.

I live in a very rural area... (Below threshold)
Grace:

I live in a very rural area with a volunteer fire department.

These firefighters do not cross county lines to fight a fire. It might be next door or across the street, but they do not go. They are not allowed.

They do not put out fires out of their catchment area because if they got all of their equipment out and put out a fire, or are cleaning equipment after such a scenario and there was a fire in their legitimate area, which they were late or unable to respond to, guess what? They would be sued. Not only the individual fire fighters (remember - purely volunteers) but our small village and our local services board would all be liable for a lawsuit.

The nature of our world now demands that people protect themselves from such lawsuits, even if the individual firefighters would have been willing and desirous of fighting the "unauthorized" fire.

I would guess that this small fire department has the same constraints on their activities.

Also, some of the ideas presented here about paying after the fact would probably not work, because there are so few fires. There would never be enough funds to properly equip and train the volunteers.

"Except that when I don't p... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"Except that when I don't pay my property taxes, my homes is still a home, instead of a soggy pile of charred timbers. "

Exactly my point. If they had put out the fire hey would have something of value (other than the land) that could be used to recoup the expense. Now the county has lost that home and the tax revenue that it would otherwise have generated. Who's stupid now? I suppose you are going to argue with me that letting the house burn to the ground was a good decision because the county did really need that tax revenue anyway.

If they had put the fire out they would have had something to leverage payment against. Now they not only do not have that, but they had to put out the fire anyway. Nobody seems to have noticed that fact. They still did the work, but they let it cost the county future tax revenue.

Short sighted and stupid. Yeah, let it burn baby. Morons.

"Also, some of the ideas pr... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"Also, some of the ideas presented here about paying after the fact would probably not work, because there are so few fires. There would never be enough funds to properly equip and train the volunteers."

The suggestion isn't that everyone pay after the fact, but that people who do not subscribe be charged after the fact. The inference being that it would be a heck of a lot cheaper to pay up front.

And yes, that would work. As I mentioned before the fire dept still had to put out the fire. They expended time and material to do so. They just managed to do so after it had consumed a home and destroyed part of the tax base. So ultimately, the county will get less money with which to fund public services. Money that the area is already so hard pressed to come up with.

Letting the house burn was ignorant and short sighted. The fire dept is already getting funding to train and equip it's people. They could do with more I am sure. But rather than seeing this as a potential revenue producing event where they could charge their cost PLUS an additional non-subscriber fee, they chose to do nothing and let the fire go.

And if they don't collect the bill then what? Then they take the property in a tax auction and try to recover the costs that way. Still a better result than what they got.

Think I'll cancel my car in... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Think I'll cancel my car insurance. If I have an accident, I'll buy a policy and put in a claim. Yeah, that'll work.

GarandFan,The guy ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

GarandFan,

The guy apparently had homeowner's insurance (perhaps not enough to cover his losses though). the proper analogy would be to say that you parked your car out in the street and a band of vandals was going down the street breaking out car windows. The police wouldn't stop them from breaking your windows out because you didn't pay the subscription fee, but when they broke your neighbor's window they arrested the vandals because your neighbor paid the fee. In fact they watched the vandals break out your windows and did nothing.

Sure your losses are covered by your insurance and the police need to be supported by the subscription fees. Yet they still had to come out and do their job anyway. They just let the vandals screw you over first to prove their point before doing their job.

Anyone who has rea... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:
Anyone who has read my posts here knows how much against obamacare I am, but this has nothing to do with forcing people into insurance or anything like that. It is about doing the right thing.
If you want to "do the right thing" by your understanding, you should not be a government employee. Government employees must abide by the rule of law. Anything else is an abuse of their power.
The suggestion isn't that everyone pay after the fact, but that people who do not subscribe be charged after the fact. The inference being that it would be a heck of a lot cheaper to pay up front.
Actually, it's a lot cheaper to not pay the fee and not have a fire. You make this a valid option, and more people will take the calculated risk. Then, since there aren't enough people subsidizing the cost, the cost will raise from $75 a month, which will encourage more people to drop coverage, and the cycle begins again.

The only way to get around this is to have HUGE fees for not paying after a fire, and the bigger the fees you issue, the less likely it is you will collect them. Sure, you may get something from the sale of a decrepit house, but not enough.

The fact is, you've engineered the system to fail by eventually denying everyone coverage, as opposed to engineering it to fail by denying only some coverage now.

Plus, if the homeowner says upfront that he won't pay for the fire department to put out his house, his blazing home is still a danger to everyone else around him. If the fire department does not put out the flames, they endanger third parties (as happened in this case). So, your solution still does not address the collective action problem.

So yes, I say under the fire system they had, the best option was to enforce the $75 fee and let the house burn. But, I am simultaneously arguing that the whole fee system is bad, and fire service should be provided to the community, not individuals, paid for by taxes at the city or county level. This, like police protection and road maintenance, is not something that you should be allowed to buy into ala carte.

I really don't understand h... (Below threshold)
jimmy:

I really don't understand how people can say that allowing the house the burn was the right decision. What happens if a neighbor calls to report a fire and they discover that the house has no insurance? At that point you have no idea if there are people in the house or not. Do they not respond and risk the loss of life over $75? What would have happened if the owner attempts to put the fire out themselves? Do they allow him to take that risk considering that the fire department is standing by and watching it burn?

From what I've read the fire department does not support this policy because they are in the business of providing a public service and I'm sure want no part of making moral decisions such as this.

What we are debating is how to design a fire protection system that is paid for and services the entire community. Logically, this policy makes no sense. I live in a city so you couldn't have a policy such as this because of the density of the population. You couldn't do this out West because we know a simple fire can turn into acres of destruction. It seems too much like common sense to revisit this policy.

Dayne~"And yet,... (Below threshold)
914:

Dayne~

"And yet, the idea that a community supports its neighbors and helps them out even when they make bad choices is now virtually non-existent in the world of the Tea Party.

Let's use another example. Someone who doesn't have health insurance and comes down with a serious illness. Do you turn them away when the come to the hospital or do you find a way to help them despite the fact that they don't have insurance?

In the tea party world you let them die without treatment."

DING DING DING! And we have a winner for dumbass of the day!

Congrats Diane!

JSchuler-Where do ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

JSchuler-

Where do I start? I am not now nor have I ever been a government employee.

"The only way to get around this is to have HUGE fees for not paying after a fire, and the bigger the fees you issue, the less likely it is you will collect them."

No. You only have to make the penalty more expensive than what they would have paid if they had been subscribing. That includes the cost of the service plus a fine. I do not see how this is engineered to fail. You incentivize people to subscribe by making it clear that the fees will be substantial if they do not subscribe and require services. Either way if people cannot afford to subscribe then they cannot afford to rebuild. The net result is that they lose their homes. Better as a county to preserve the property than to have it destroyed. Then at least you have the possibility of replacing the homeowners with someone who can afford it.

While it is always cheaper to not pay an not have a fire (that in fact is the current situation if you bothered to consider that fact), the point is that if $75 is considered a reasonable expense by most, then charging above that for non-subscribers would be appropriate.

By setting a fee for their services the fire dept places a monetary value for their protection. What they have said in this case is that it is worth a mere $75 per year. They have essentially stated that for a few bucks per month they cannot afford to help this person. I think everyone realizes that the $75 per year does not cover their costs. It is mostly symbolic. If they are charging $500 for a rural fire call then they could charge $1000 for the non-subscriber and recoup the revenues that they missed. If more people drop out then they raise that price. I don't think that you would have problems collecting most of these fees. Heck, most municipalities would send you to collections for unpaid parking tickets, why not send them to collections for this?

I agree with you on the a la carte thing. I lived in a county which was divided into fire protection districts and even the unincorporated areas were covered this way. While it is more difficult in rural areas, this method would still work.

By setting a fee f... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:
By setting a fee for their services the fire dept places a monetary value for their protection. What they have said in this case is that it is worth a mere $75 per year. They have essentially stated that for a few bucks per month they cannot afford to help this person. I think everyone realizes that the $75 per year does not cover their costs. It is mostly symbolic.
You misunderstand the nature of the $75. It is not a symbolic gesture. Instead, you are paying into a risk pool. The chances that, any given year, your house will catch fire and need to be put out is low. So, even though it may cost a ton of money to put out that fire, enough people pay the $75 and don't have fires so that the $75 covers the cost.
If they are charging $500 for a rural fire call then they could charge $1000 for the non-subscriber and recoup the revenues that they missed.
Here, you are assuming that the $500 charge for the call is also designed to cover costs. I am 99.873% certain that you are wrong, and that the $500 charge is simply to dissuade people in the rural areas for calling the fire department for frivolous cases (e.g. my cat is stuck in a tree).

Anyway, the simple fact is that even at $5,000, more than double your proposed rate, a fire call for the uncovered is a steal. I wouldn't pay the $75 bucks to cover an event that, in all likelihood, would never happen to me if I knew I could spend $5000 if the rare catastrophe did hit. And I'm 83.754% sure that those $5000 fees wouldn't cover the costs of buying and maintaining the equipment and training the volunteers.

But, you can make up probabilities as easy as I can. What we really need is to know the number of subscribers, the number of fire calls, and the operating costs of the fire department.

I'm sure that the fees do n... (Below threshold)
jim m:

I'm sure that the fees do not cover their costs.

All the more reason to criticize the decision not to put out the fire. They ask for a token fee that does not cover their costs. They charge a token fee for the actual service that does not cover their costs.

Yes the $75 pays into a risk pool. But if you charge a fee that compensates for not paying into the risk pool then everyone is even. If you don't carry health insurance you can still get treatment, you just have to pay the full price. In most cases your health insurance limits you liability. You pay maybe as much as 20% of the bill and your liability may be capped. You do not get discounted services because you have health insurance. Your service costs the same regardless. But by paying into the pool, the pool covers your costs.

With the fire protection you could have done the same thing. People either pay into the pool or pay full freight plus a penalty.

Ultimately there is no excuse for not putting out the fire. It was foolish and obtuse. They had to put it out anyway. They still had to respond. They still incurred the same costs. Actually, if they had a policy to charge non-subscribers they would have passed up an opportunity to increase revenues since they otherwise would have done the same work for what had already been paid into the pool.

Is anyone at all sure that ... (Below threshold)
GT:

Is anyone at all sure that this family is "poor"??? Poor is a relative term. People have to learn to prioritize and make right decisions. The government need not be in the business of bailing people out for making bad decisions. They learn from their's or others mistakes and make changes. There are consequences for making bad decision!! It's just a matter if you want to take risk or not, but if you take risk - don't expect others to pay for your risk taking.

Health care and fire protection is apples and oranges. A person's life and stuff are two seperate issues. The $75, one might say, is a small insurance policy for fire protection. No policy - no protection. It's a tragedy that this house burned - but it could have been prevented with good decision making!!!

"Health care and fire prote... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"Health care and fire protection is apples and oranges. A person's life and stuff are two seperate issues. The $75, one might say, is a small insurance policy for fire protection. No policy - no protection. It's a tragedy that this house burned - but it could have been prevented with good decision making!!!"

Actually, No. You cannot prevent illness. You cannot prevent all fires either. Good decisions do not prevent bad things from happening.

Obviously, the neighbor didn't do anything wrong, yet still needed the fire protection. What if the fire had started on someone's lot that was protected by the fire dept, but spread to one that was not. Should the non paying person pay for the negligence of the fire dept? Would the fire dept be more likely to allow the fire to spread to a non covered property than a covered one? Given this event I would say yes.

Yes they should have paid for the fire protection. But the fire dept just sitting idly by until the neighbor's property was threatened is wrong.

The fire Dept has cast this as an issue of cost. I fail to see where they saved any cost what so ever. They still responded. They still put the fire out. They just let it do maximum damage to someone's house before they motivated themselves to act. The fire dept didn't save anything.

As I have said above, they really just failed to do their job and if they had some foresight they would have had an opportunity to generate additional revenue for the dept.

"It's just a matter if you ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"It's just a matter if you want to take risk or not, but if you take risk - don't expect others to pay for your risk taking. "

What about paying the full cost of the services that you receive sounds to you like others paying for your risk taking? If the fire dept had simply taken the stand that they will bill anyone who is not a subscriber for the full cost of their services this would not be an issue. No one is suggesting that the homeowners should be covered gratis.

Try arguing about something someone is actually talking about.

"They would be sued. Not on... (Below threshold)
joeyjojo:

"They would be sued. Not only the individual fire fighters (remember - purely volunteers)"

That's simply false. The individual firefighters would not be financially liable. You're making up facts in order to "prove" your point about the country being overly litigious, but the fact that you have to make something up to prove it suggests that your central premise is flawed (or, at the very least, has nothing to do with what's being discussed here).

The solution is pretty simple. Everybody in the country should have fire coverage, something that means that the fire department will come to try and save their house. The option of not paying for it should not be an option, because of course you're going to have people not wanting to pay and trying to get away with it. We live in a society. Part of living in a society is that you have responsibilities to the society, and one of those responsibilities is taxes to pay for things like roads, police, and firemen. What really shocks me is that the conservatives are framing this debate as "How should people pay for their fire service?" The answer is taxes. Any other answer is stupid, and this is a perfect example of exactly why the people arguing against taxation don't understand how societies function.

What if there was an Americ... (Below threshold)
fonagonis:

What if there was an American flag or a bible in there and they just let it burn when they knowed it was in there? That stuff is worth more than furniture. Its the Word of God and his Rightness will rain down upon them.

Man: "Sir, sir, my house is... (Below threshold)
Darby:

Man: "Sir, sir, my house is burning! Everything I own is in there!"

Fire Chief: "We're really sorry mister, but you didn't pay your $75.00 Fire Protection fee... We can't help you put it out."

Man: "Please, I'm begging you, I'll do whatever I need too, please put the fire out!"

Fire Chief: "Sorry, it's a bit too late for that now."

Man: "But, everything I own is in that house, my family photo's, my treasured items, my child's first pair of shoes... Everything"

Fire Chief: "Terribly sorry for your loss, sir"

Yeah, That's the moral high ground all right.

Put the fire out and sort the finances out later. Don't ruin someones life over $75.00 dollars.

From what little I've read, why the hell did the fire fighters even respond in the first place? Would have been easier to just have the 9-1-1 operator relay the message that: "Oops, you didn't pay your 75 bucks, have fun watching your house burn down." Instead the fire department actually responded to the scene! They already cost themselves more the that 75 bucks to begin with! Yikes, nothing about this make sense to me.

The choice the fire department made is morally repugnant. The Fire chief should resign, or be fired, and that law needs to be repealed... Just because it's "legal" doesn't make it right.

If no one paid the $75.00, ... (Below threshold)
LC:

If no one paid the $75.00, there would be no money for a fire department. I guess you all think that the fire depart magically appears without money to pay for the equipment and fireman.

The firemen ascerrtained th... (Below threshold)
epador:

The firemen ascerrtained there were no lives at stake. They ascertained that the homeowner had refused to pay for services. They did not risk their lives or health to put out the homeowner's fire, but stayed around and did protect a subscriber's home and property. The county had avoided providing services to all residents. The county is ALL the residents. What part of this, jim m, makes it necessary for the firemen FROM ANOTHER COUNTY (doesn't affect their taxbase, etc.) to risk themselves and their equipment for someone who refused to enroll their services beforehand?

Darby, they responded becau... (Below threshold)

Darby, they responded because the neighbor had paid his fee -- and the blaze was threatening his house. They kept his house safe.

The guy made a bet -- that he wouldn't need fire service -- and lost. He gambled, and it didn't pay off.

Sucks to be him.

J.

I assume that any non-payer... (Below threshold)

I assume that any non-payer that still had his fire put out by the volunteer department, still preserves his right to sue for any additional damages done by the fire department to his property.

IMO, the ideal situation wo... (Below threshold)
James H:

IMO, the ideal situation would be for the county to contract with the town to provide fire services for those residences, and then for the county to incorporate the necessary fees into those residents' property taxes.

From a libertarian perspective, I suppose, the county residents should not have to pay for the fire protection if they don't want to ... but as we've seen, it turns out they throw a fit if they don't get the service. So it needs to be paid for.

All sorts of nice analogies to national issues here, no?

No one has asked "how many ... (Below threshold)
TexBob:

No one has asked "how many times has this man NOT paid his $75?".

How many years has he knowingly decided to spend that $75 on beer, cigarettes, or XBOX games?

Just like Obamacare with making insurance companies accept pre-existing conditions. Folks figure they can wait till something happens, and then get insurance AFTER the fact.

The cheapskate played roulette with his house and lost. The fire department showed up to make sure the other PAYING subscribers houses nearby did not catch fire from this idiot's house.

Ya make your bed, you lay in it.

Again texbob, if I choose n... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Again texbob, if I choose not to get health insurance and I get cancer, I can still get treated by the best doctors in the world, I just have to pay more. In this case he was denied any access to help.

That's a crucial difference. I would have no problem if they said, "We'll put your fire out but our cost is $5000 and you'll get a bill."

So I don't care that he didn't pay. I don't care if he spent the money on booze or cigarettes that is irrelevant. They have a monopoly on fire protection. They still had to go out and put out the fire because their failure to do so on this man's property meant it spread to someone who paid. They just got paid less than they could have because they only did it for the customer who paid the prorated rate.

Again texbob, i... (Below threshold)
Again texbob, if I choose not to get health insurance and I get cancer, I can still get treated by the best doctors in the world, I just have to pay more. In this case he was denied any access to help.

That's a crucial difference.

Again Jim M, nobody's lives were threatened by the fire department's actions in this matter.

That's also a crucial difference.

this family had called the ... (Below threshold)
kelly:

this family had called the fire department to their service three years prior to this event. The son also had not paid the optional $75 per year fee thinking he would save the money and never have a fire. The fire department responded put out the fire and billed him.
The family in question is reckless and irresponsible. they learned that they can save the money shrug the responsibility onto their neighbors and use the service without payment. They made a conscious and informed decision to not pay for a service. That is the crux. The decision was made- they decided not to pay the fee even though they had used the service in the past.
Now lets add insult to injury. In addition to leaving their pets in the home, allowing their animals to be killed by fire (SPCA?)they will file a claim against their homeowners insurance.
If you were the homeowners insurance company and had entered into a legal contract with the insured would you have asked if the fire services were subscribed to? I bet you would. If it turns out that there was an untruth in the application for homeowners insurance doesnt the insurance company have the obligation (to it's shareholders, other insureds and employees) to refuse the claim? further it is stated that the homeowner did not have adequate personal contents coverage. SHOCKER!

This guy is a weasel and a bum that wants others to be responsible for the outcomes of his own decisions.

Someone should call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

If it turns out that he did misrepresent the facts to the insurance company and subsequentyl filed a claim, perhaps charges of insurance fraud.

Okay maybe the town should ... (Below threshold)

Okay maybe the town should stop the rural service and go back to 1989 service levels. They might have to let a couple of firemen go, put a unit in mothballs and wait for the county government to establish their own department or authorize taxing the residents to pay or it.

Wadda we want?
Free Stuff!!!!
When o we wnt it
Yesterday!

Overall a well-written arti... (Below threshold)
GVH:

Overall a well-written article that goes deeper than most on the reality of the situation in Obion county.

What's worth pointing out, though, is that it isn't necessarily the PEOPLE of Obion county that haven't implemented a properly-funded county-wide rural fire service. One has been proposed, along with suggestions for several potential funding models. The cost to rural residents would actually be pretty reasonable, funding for their municipal fire departments would be improved, and response time and coverage would be improved. All sounds pretty rational, right?

The problem is the county officials - the mayor and the commissioners. They have effectively sat on it for two years, and are only considering a county-wide subscription model. In other words, a slightly better version of the same disaster they have today. Why? Personably because they don't want to be accused of raising taxes.

But the real crime here is that they have never, from what I can tell, informed the citizens of their options or the facts of them...let alone put the full idea up for vote. Having spoken with citizens there, they find that when they inform people of the choices and the costs that they agree that the plan is a good one. But the county officials won't. In fact, even attempts to get contact information for the commissioners are stymied...they aren't public and aren't given out over the phone. I kid you not.

For the situation to change, pressure needs to be applied go the county government. The people need to be informed, allowed to have open debate, and then to choose. They currently can't.

Dane offers us another stup... (Below threshold)
Rick Caird:

Dane offers us another stupid argument in #7. He foolishly claims it is all the fault of the Tea parties (who did not exist in 2008) who do not want to take care of their neighbors. The very, very simple counter argument is it is all the fault of the Democrats, and people like Dane, who have built such an entitlement society that people feel they should get for free what others pay for.

"We have become a culture w... (Below threshold)

"We have become a culture where making money doesn't entitle you to it, but wanting money does." -- Ken Blackwell

Please see the following pa... (Below threshold)
Concerned:

Please see the following page for more information on how to stop this from happening in Obion county:

http://obionfire.blogspot.com/

If I were a fireman (woman)... (Below threshold)
Karen L:

If I were a fireman (woman) on this job, they would have had to fire me!! I would have stepped in and put the fire out. "Do unto others......"

Good Lord....<... (Below threshold)
The Other Jay:


Good Lord....

Were the Cruse family aware that they lived in the county, that the county had no county-provided fire service, that the only fire service was available was that from South Fulton, and that was on a contract basis?

From the multiple interviews with (predominantly) Mr. Cruse, we know that all the answers to these questions are "Yes".

While it hasn't been published (to my knowledge), I assume that the Cruse's also were without fire insurance on the domicile, as that would be tough to come by without a firefighting coverage plan.

I do feel sorry for Mr. Cruse, as his bad decisions and poor planning achieved critical mass.

He had options. He chose not to use them.

If the other folks in the county see this as a huge problem, they are free to either initiate a tax to fund their own fire coverage, or to contract with South Fulton on an all-encompassing basis.

So far, the other citizens of the county choose not to do so.

If the Cruse Family are fine, upstanding, wonderful neighbors and community members, I'm very sure that they'll find their community helping them rebuild to an astonishing degree.

If they don't fit that description, they'll end up getting some help, but not as much.

Just on the chance that they ARE great people, I'm going to send them $20.

Since I'm paying, that means all you big-government types have to as well. You love taxes. You now all owe the Cruses $20. Unless you do send the money, you're moral high ground is lacking altitude.

Change "you're moral high g... (Below threshold)
The Other Jay:

Change "you're moral high ground" to "your moral high ground". Sorry

A parallel thought..... (Below threshold)
The Other Jay:


A parallel thought.....

Is the reason that most liberals want to mandate and force ubiquitous assistance is that they realize that - as individuals - they lack the qualities that would ever inspire anyone to want to help them voluntarily?

Just sayin....

For additional FACTS behind... (Below threshold)

For additional FACTS behind the situation in Obion County that allowed the Cranick property to burn to the ground, please see:

http://obionfire.blogspot.com/

UN-AMERICAN ACT !!!... (Below threshold)

UN-AMERICAN ACT !!!

It is a genius ploy by the ... (Below threshold)

It is a genius ploy by the government to rake in more money either buy destroying people's homes that they can't afford and to rake in those subscription fees.

The author of this post see... (Below threshold)
Ana D:

The author of this post seems to have forgotten the answer that Jesus gave to the "expert" in Jewish law from Luke 10:29. In answer to the question "who is my neighbor?" Jesus told him the story of a Jewish man who had been set upon by bandits, robbed, stripped of his clothing and beaten nearly to death. A couple of upstanding citizens walking by saw the man's need but did nothing. Then a man who was part of a group hated by Jews (and which hated Jews in return) saw the man's plight: He bandaged the man, drove him (via donkey) to an inn, instructed the innkeeper to look after the man and paid in advance from his own money. It is this man whom we should strive to be like, not the upstanding citizens who walked by and did nothing.

You may know this as the story of the "Good Samaritan" - not just a Samaritan, but a good Samaritan. Here's a quick explanation of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans: http://www.bible-history.com/Samaritans/SAMARITANSJews_and_Samaritans.htm

This Samaritan had more reason than the others passing by to have turned a blind eye to a member of a hated group; he didn't know how the man had come to be in this situation - whether he deserved it or not. Yet the Samaritan went out of his way to help this man in need and gave of his own money for the man's care, with no idea whether he would be paid back in return, or even thanked. This Samaritan behaved as a neighbors should behave toward each other, was Jesus' answer. So a Jew similarly coming upon a Samaritan in the same plight should do the same.

Jesus was not saying this is how governments should behave; he was telling individuals how to behave. But in the USA, the government is US. These people - the homeowners and the firefighters were part of a community.
Libertarianism that says the government shouldn't step in, that helping out people in need should be up to the community may be Christian, but Libertarianism that says every man for himself and that's just too bad if my neighbor is in need is NOT Christian.

A community that behaves like the Good Samaritan not only does good for its neighbors, it makes it more likely that when YOU fall on hard times, your neighbors will be there to help YOU.

Now, you can discuss this issue as a purely secular one, one where only money matters and not religion, but please leave Jesus out of it if that's what you want to do.

If I've heard the facts of ... (Below threshold)
Ana D:

If I've heard the facts of this story correctly, this family had in the past paid the fire coverage fee to the city, but it had slipped between the cracks this year. (Also, they lost 4 pets in addition to all their belongings and memories.) The moral hazard of free riders is one where an individual calculates that he will be able to get something and have others pay for it. But the nonpayment of the fee here was not intentional and so, not calculated.

You can try and impute intent by holding the person responsible for everything they know or should know to do or not do, but we are human and fallible. And as the commenter who spoke about miners and farmers losing their home tried to communicate, bad things happen to good people. Not everyone who is in need has done something to bring about their fate. In fact, most people haven't.

If you are going to hold strictly to this kind of social contract where you only get what you pay for, regardless of intent or ability, you'd better hope and pray that you don't become unlucky nor forgetful.

This incident, this ridicul... (Below threshold)
Not a Red State Retard:

This incident, this ridiculous blog post, and many of the commenters here highlight what is wrong with Red State America. All this talk of help your neighbor contradicts the fact that politics in places like Obion County has been shaped for decades by fears that black Americans might be helped by "the guvmit".

Shame on all of you thoughtless bigots who expect kind treatment for yourselves while ignoring the needs of others. You might get the Tea Party or Sarah Palin to believe your garbage, but the Good Lord is much more aware of what lies in your heart!




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