Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fire Protection

Fire Protection

Remember last week when I talked about how a pay to play fired department in San Diego would be very harmful to everyone? Well, it didn't take too long to have proof of the claim that we shouldn't resort back to Rome tactics in fire fighting.

For those of you who can't work visual images and or are deaf, here's the story again because it really is unbelievable.
Tennessee County’s Subscription-Based Firefighters Watch As Family Home Burns Down

As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground:

Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won’t respond, then watches it burn. That’s exactly what happened to a local family tonight. A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning. Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay. The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck. [...]

We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception. “Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t,” Mayor David Crocker said.

The fire reportedly continued for hours “because garden hoses just wouldn’t put it out. It wasn’t until that fire spread to a neighbor’s property, that anyone would respond” — only because the neighbor had paid the fee.

A local newspaper further pressed Mayor Crocker about the city’s policy, which has been in place since 1990. Crocker, a Republican who was elected in 2008 and serves with a county commission where every seat is also filled by a Republican, likened the policy to buying auto insurance. The paper said he told them that, after all, “if an auto owner allowed their vehicle insurance to lapse, they would not expect an insurance company to pay for an unprotected vehicle after it was wrecked.”

Ironically, in the county commission’s latest report on its fire services, which outlines which parts of the municipal area will receive fire services only through subscriptions, the commissioners and fire service officials brag that the county is “very progressive.”
Well then, that's a good start. We need to let everything burn. Burn Tennessee down and salt the Earth behind you! Maybe people just need to get over their material possessions anyway. I guess $75 isn't THAT much. Just think about it this way: These firefighters let someone's house burn down for $75. It's like we're in 1840 again.

That's actually how fire fighters started out, in the form of the ancient Roman vigiles, who were slaves owned by Crassus. They would charge a fee to fight fires and if you didn't, well they would let your house burn and Crassus would just buy the land of your burnt down property for pennies.

Whoa. This actually happened. It actually went to the point that a place caught on fire and because the firefighters didn't get their protection payment, they let the mother fucker burn. I could see the sales pitch when they come around for their $75
"That's a nice house you have there, be a shame if somet oooops my bad"
I'm just wondering if you can actually legally set up a competing fire fighting service. It seems that's the only acceptable thing that will come of all this. You'll have fire fighters fighting over who gets to put out fires.

Though if you know anything about history, you would realize that that's how fire departments worked until after the civil war. They'd literally fight each other and set fire to things on purpose to loot it since they were all volunteers.

I wonder if someone had died in the fire, and the fire fighters did nothing, could they be held liable for the death? Probably not.

When I worked as a lifeguard It was repeated constantly that we could be held liable if we failed to act to save a person's life, regardless of whether we were on the clock or not. This family should sue the city for breathing in second hand smoke as they did nothing. They should sue them for a billion other reasons.

This has to be a conservative's perfect vision of society. Those who can't pay have their homes burn to the ground in front of them while trained firefighters look on idly and refuse to accept their money. Here's some fast facts about Obion.
-13 % of the population lives below the poverty line. 28% of the population are renters (hope your landlord paid their fire insurance!).

-500$ fee is assessed on all rural calls regardless of payment of the 75$ insurance fee. above 70 percent of all calls are considered rural. The fire department has no legal authority to collect on the fees yet it enjoys a 50% payment rate.
So that $75 fee isn't even the start of it. You just have to pay that in order to potentially use their service. A $500 fee is tacked on if you actually want them to do anything to help you. This whole story just reads like some kind of Ayn Rand fantasy and it's really very tragic.

Should I even take the other side of this? I mean, I don't get how having your house burn down isn't against your rational-self-interest enough to buy into this stupid protection against fire. I do wonder where the family did spend the money that they saved in the fee? Satellite TV? A new car payment?

It's pretty clear that this experiment in libertarianism went off like a house on fire. This is going to be everywhere in America in the next 5 years and you know why? Because "How dare big government take our money!".

The incentive here to make sure that it stays a government funded agency that makes fire fighting a blanket service offered is to make sure to prevent the reduction in property values surrounding the house. This thread that your neighbor's place may go up in flames and start your property should be enough of negative outcome that fire fighting service isn't just moral, but economically sensible from any half-rational standpoint.

This whole incident is beyond comprehension. The mayor himself is defending a house burning down over a $75 fee. How nice is that? By all accounts, the free market worked. They didn't pay for a service and so they didn't get it. I once asked a libertarian if he thought poor people's houses should burn down if they couldn't pay the firefighters and his response was "poor people shouldn't own houses."

I don't care who's paying you. If you're a fire fighter and someone's home is burning down, you put it out. That's what you are - a fucking firefighter. If a doctor saw a guy having a heart attack on the street, he wouldn't go "Ooh, better not do anything, he might not have insurance." Actually, wait. in America he might do just that.

I still don't see why the fire department, now that it was already there to put out the fire in the neighbors caused by this guy's fire, couldn't just put out the fire and then billed the family $75 later. Hell, chances are they would even be able to charge a ton of late fees for the protection and it would be totally legal.

The story even says that the family begged and pleaded and offered them money. They offered them the fucking protection money on the spot, but since it wasn't in advance, they did the scummiest thing I ever heard.

This whole thing reminds me of when I used to play The Game of Life as a kid and you opted out of buying Fire Insurance, but inevitably landed on the square where your house burns down. That's this family. Though what I believe is that this shouldn't have ever even been an option. Much like police service isn't something you could opt out of. These are basic social services that are needed for one and all.

I mean, if only there was some way to collectively charge people for common services provided by a governmental entity. Oh well, that's life I suppose. In a sane society nobody gets the option to opt in or out of fire service. It's just there. Just like no one can opt out of paying the taxes towards your kids education. You can't just choose NOT to pay the taxes for it. Nor do you set it up so people can opt out of doing so.

The best part of all this is that they didn't really save any money by not putting it out. The fire department was on the scene, they just stood around watching it burn. It would have cost them nothing to put out the fire but the few thousand gallons of water which is next to nothing compared to the home of one of their own community members. They were already unavailable in case something else caught fire so they couldn't use that as an excuse. They just sat there and watched his house burn out of simple malice.

All I can say to all this is: Fuck America.

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