Unpaid fee means firefighters let house burn in Tennessee

House fire

Should firefighters have let the house burn, even though the owner had not opted-in to coverage? Image: 111Emergency / Flickr / CC-BY

In Tennessee, rural firefighters let a house burn because the homeowner had not paid a $75 fee. While the fact that firefighters let Gene Cranick’s home burn has sparked outrage, it has also sparked discussion on the cost of public services. The debate about firefighters letting a house burn comes down to individual responsibility versus public responsibility.

Firefighters allow Cranick house to burn

Last week, the grandson of Gene Cranick was burning trash outside of the rural Tennessee home. The fire got out of control, and the Cranicks did what anyone would do — called 911. Rather than immediately dispatching the fire department, the dispatcher informed Cranick that his address was “not on the list” of residences who had paid the $75 firefighting fee. This means that while firefighters did arrive at the scene, they only kept the fire contained, rather than trying to save the home.

Why firefighters let the house burn

The unpaid $75 county fee that kept Cranick’s house off “the list” was a firefighting fee. Gene Cranick lived outside city limits. Because Obion County, Tenn., does not have a fire department, the nearest city offers fire coverage. South Fulton charges individuals living outside city limits $75 per year to cover the rural areas. This fee is used to cover the expenses of the larger fire department and tanker trucks necessary to fight rural fires. Cranick claims he “forgot” to pay the fee that year — which could have easily been done with a no fax payday loan. Either way, by opting to not pay the fee, Cranick was not covered by the rural fire service.

Should firefighters have let the house burn?

The debate surrounding the Cranick home fire has itself reached a boiling point. Some are arguing that pay-as-you-go emergency services simply could not work — individuals would pay only when there was an emergency, which would not be sustainable. Others are pointing out that by letting a house burn, the firefighters were breaching their duty of public safety. What do you think? Should firefighters have let the house burn, or should they have fought the fire, even though Cranick had not paid for the service?



Other recent posts by bryanh