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Firefighters under orders to let house burn down

This news story is a great example of personal responsibility. Rural Obion County does not have a tax funded department. So someone started a privately funded fire department. The way it works is those who want the fire department to be available in the event of a fire must pay $75 per year. If you don't, you do not get any fire department service. One thing I have to deal with in business a LOT is people who think the rules don't apply to them. The home owner in this story is a perfect example of that. He thought that if he did not pay the $75 fee that if his house did end up on fire the firefighters would show up and put out his fire anyway. Maybe he thought he was special and was supposed to be given a service for free that all his neighbors have to pay for. Guess what happened when his house caught fire, read below...


I understand that people and animals can die in a fire. But that's not an excuse to expect firefighters to work for free. But putting out a fire is a life threatening venture and why would you expect someone to risk their life to save your home...for free!? And firefighters have families and children, they have bills to pay and mortgages due. If some people pay the $75 per year and some don't, how are these firefighters supposed to feed their children and pay their mortgages and rent?

The home owner said that when he called 911 he offered to pay for the cost of putting out the fire. But if he is allowed to do that then everyone has to be allowed to do that. And no one would pay the $75 per year, they would just wait and see if there is a fire and then if there is one offer to pay for it. And that means if there are no fires then once again the firefighters make no money and they can't feed their families or pay their mortgages.

If your county tells you fire fighter service is only available to you if you pay an annual fee then it is your personal responsibility to choose if you want fire fighter service or you want to risk losing your home and save $75. If you make the wrong choice there are consequences. Please don't cry to the news about your poorly made choice.


Doctors are obligated to save your life if you're in imminent danger...

EMTs are obligated to save your life if you're in imminent danger...

Police are obligated to save your life if you're under attack and in immediate danger...

It's not like the firefighters couldn't have saved him and garnished his wages/assets after the fact for this one exception.

Leaving people in danger over small amounts of money is not something we want to get into -- is it? You *really* want to defend a position that it's ok to stand around and let people die, come to harm, or be ruined when it doesnt have to come to that AND you can collect your money later?

I would say true, but they're not in a situation where the client or patient has chosen to wave the services, and in this case the person chose to wave the firefighter services.

I get into a car accident while driving without insurance, and call after the accident to buy insurance. How well would it work, covering stuff from the accident? Especially if I had been at fault and my insurance had to pay for the other person's medical or repair costs.....

That being said, do I think I personally, could sit by and just watch his house burn down......no. I absolutely don't think so. I love fire, but I absolutely hatehatehate how destructive it can be when it's not under control :-\
I hear what you're saying - however...

First, the car accident analogy makes a point but isn't quite applicable because a car accident would happen and then it would be over.

In this specific incident, there would have been time to save the car

And yes, I understand the problem with having noone pay until there actually was an issue -- although they could slap the guy with a bill for cost/expenses for saving his house and let him make the decision

The problem I see here is that once protection is privatized -- we open the door for price gouging ("there is a $50 surcharge that will be needed to be collected before we can send a truck out there...")

...for price-structures ("I understand sir, but your a tier-3 customer while we have another fire that is a tier-2 and so we need to go out there first....")

...and strikes.

The REAL problem is the county should have made sure whatever taxes were collected went to fire protection -- that's a governance issue... but it still seems a bit too *mercenary* to just stand there while someone's house burns.

What happens to poor people? Are they just out of luck?
To be fair to this situation, there was no danger to life. I rather think that if somebody had been inside, those fire fighters would have tried to save them (this notion is purely from my gut, I have observed the better parts of humanity enough times to feel this way). The guys were present at the scene, watching for the fire to threaten life or "insured" property.

Further, I view this of two minds. One side says: do the right thing, then make a huge example out of the people involved by making them pay direct costs (which would probably add up to thousands for this incident).

The other side says: You either participate in and contribute to society (and potentially benefit from that participation), or you don't.

Both plans have their pros and cons... but I have to lean towards not saving the house. The residents were safe and this guy chose to forego fire protection quite intentionally. Decisions have benefits and consequences.
I'm torn too -- I also believe in participating to society, especially if you benefit.

That said I tend to lean towards saving the house and then recouping costs later; The threat of paying more in recovery costs than the outlay of $75 will still convince people to purchase the protection.

That said -- I mentioned in the comment above about the dangers (in my mind) about privatizing protection: Price gouging, Preferred customer, even strikes...

Part of the reason we have government is because there are services that need to be provided WITHOUT a profit motive, and this is a striking example.

In truth the county should never have allowed there to be a lack of fire coverage and should have added that to his property taxes -- but that is a different issue.
I don't think that is an accurate comparison. You had no choice but to pay the mob for protection. If you didn't, they would destroy your property or hurt you or your loved ones. Also it doesn't cost the mob anything to "protect" you. But it costs the fire department thousands of dollars to show up and try to save your home. Since when is someone entitled to thousands of dollars in free services?

And the firefighters stood there because they were under order to do so. They risked being fired if they disobeyed an order from their boss. And if you have children to feed and a mortgage to pay do you really want to get yourself fired? Why should you lose your own home (by not having a job to pay the mortgage) just because someone else chose not purchase fire protection for their home? Makes more sense to follow orders and keep your job.
It's not free. That's what taxes are all about. The $75 fee is an additional charge for living out in the rural area. He's already paying taxes same as the people living in the non-rural area.

Further, the way I heard it on the news, it wasn't that they chose not to pay, but simply forgot. What about accounting errors? Would the fire department have replaced everything he lost if they just had updated a ledger somewhere? I think not.

Essential services should not be on a subscription basis.

According to a readio news version of thsi story there was NO tax funded fire department in the area. So a privately funded one was started specifically for that area. That means no tax dollars go to the fire department there.

I don't buy the "forgot" to pay story. I dont forget to pay my car insurance because I don't want to lose my car if I'm in an accident. I don't forget to pay my health insurance because I need that in case I'm injured. Have I forgotten to pay one of those on time? Sure, paid late a couple times. But you don't completely forget to pay something that will save something important to you like your car or your home. Not unless you just don't care if you lose your home or not.
Okay, let's say he was just late, which you admit to having done. How late is late enough to let his house burn down? Net 30?

From a purely business point of view, this was VERY badly handled. Sure, his neighbors will be extra careful to make sure their payments are in and on time... BUT, I'm pretty sure they will be out of business in short order. Some one will get the bright idea of volunteer fire dept.
It was a choice by the commissioners not to have a tax-funded fire department:

"But last December, a county commission on which every member is a Republican voted to rescind a resolution passed years earlier that would have established a countywide fire department. Their rationale was, of course, the need to keep taxes low, but according to the county commission report, that decision was penny wise but pound foolish. “Because there is no operational county fire department,” the officials noted, “Obion County has missed the opportunity to actively pursue receipt of FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding.”
Well there you go. We can officially blame this on a few Republicans.


For once, I am completely rendered speechless.
This system is simply broken.

The problem here is that the neighbor's house also suffered damage even though they had paid their fee because the firefighters took no action until the fire was actually spreading to the neighbor's property.

So basically, the guy who did take "personal responsiblity" got hurt because of a flawed system. This is why a service like firefighting should be paid for by taxes and not be based on this idiotic subscription model. This is not something people should have the option of choosing not to participate in, because it could endager those around them.
What a great idea...:D

My buddy works at a private fire department, but his company is augmented by taxes from the county. This means they have to put out fires and save people's lives for free.

I am going to start my own, buy cheap equipment, hire inexperienced firefighters, and charge a fee for protection, and a fee for putting the fire out.

Then I am going light a few fires, and watch the money roll in.

The problem is that most people view things like fire and rescue, police protection, and government as part of the public good whose costs are shared by all citizens in the form of taxes.

The trick is to fool people into believing that tea bagging dogma of personal responsibility. Once they believe that, the rich few like me can really cash in on ignorant masses.
I don't think that applies since this fire department doesn't charge a fee for putting out a fire. If they did, they would have put out a fire and then billed him a fee.