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:

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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 casino online 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.

Not. Helpful.
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