MSNBC is running a poll at the bottom of this story, asking whether respondents think the fire department was right or wrong:
Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn't paid a $75 fee.
Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat.
"They could have been saved if they had put water on it, but they didn't do it," Cranick told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.
The fire started when the Cranicks' grandson was burning trash near the family home. As it grew out of control, the Cranicks called 911, but the fire department from the nearby city of South Fulton would not respond.
"We wasn't on their list," he said the operators told him.
More than 180,000 people have voted so far, and the results are really lopsided -- 75 percent think the firefighters should have saved the home, and only 21 percent think he shouldn't have gotten the coverage because he didn't pay the fee. You can argue either that, a) this shows just how deep the entitlement mentality runs in this country (I knew the rules, but I deserve to be covered despite deliberately breaking them, and, by God, I'll sue if I'm not) or, b) that the firefigthers are professionals who should have put their mission above all (such as ER professionals whose job it is to save lives without worrying about who has insurance).
Speaking of which, this is fascinating:
Cranick says he told the operator he would pay whatever is necessary to have the fire put out.
His offer wasn't accepted, he said.
The fire fee policy dates back 20 or so years.
"Anybody that's not inside the city limits of South Fulton, it's a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don't," said South Fulton Mayor David Crocker.
[. . .]
South Fulton's mayor said that the fire department can't let homeowners pay the fee on the spot, because the only people who would pay would be those whose homes are on fire.
People can't be allowed to pay on the spot because then they'd only pay after they use it. Sound familiar, Obamacare fans?
As governments look to privatize more and more services, this kind of thing is likely to happen a lot. Government takes our "fees" in taxes, and it's always there, so we never think about the services it offers. Our house catches fire, the fire department comes. We call the police, and they respond. The potholes and the streetlights just get taken care of. But when we have to remember to pay in order to get services, we are required to make a stronger connection between choices and consequences.
I'd say the firefighers should have saved his house, by the way. Then sent him a whopping big bill for the whole cost, not just the modest upfront fee that he blew off.