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A better (but not good) answer to the Tennessee pay to spray fiasco. Plus, Dave becomes a critic of The Fire Critic.

The Fire Critic responds and misses the point

I am sure most of you  have been following the latest incident of a Tennessee fire department letting a home burn because the homeowner didn’t pay the annual subscription fee. In this case in South Fulton an unpaid $75 bill resulted in the fire department watching a house burn to the ground. There has been a lot of reaction to this story, including the following: News coverage across the country (just heard the story again on CBS Radio); A live shot with the homeowner on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown on MSNBC with references to life under the Tea Party (see below); Glenn Beck supports the FD position; The son of the homeowner decking the fire chief (see story above); A harsh statement from IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger; The Fire Critic Rhett Fleitz taking the side of the fire department saying the rules are the rules (please check my critique of The Fire Critic further down).

As a volunteer firefighter in Maryland in the 70s I recall being quite outraged reading the stories, usually from the South, of firefighters watching homes burn because someone wasn’t on the department’s subscription or membership list. I don’t think my outrage is any less more than 35-years-later.

The chiefs who run these subscription based entities, including Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison whose department is in Obion County, Tennessee with South Fulton, make the case that they are between a rock and a hard place. Here is what Chief Edmison said to WPSD-TV:

“If somebody is trapped in the house we’re going to go because life safety is number one but we can’t give the service away,” Edmison said. “It’s not South Fulton’s problem. It’s not Union City’s problem. It’s the county’s problem. There is no county fire department.”

“If we just waited to charge when we went out there, you’d be working on a per-call basis,” he said.  “With no more calls than there are, the money wouldn’t be there in a sufficient source to buy the equipment you need.”

He and other fire chiefs in Obion County who charge subscription fees for county residents know they’re in a tough spot.

“It’s like car insurance,” Edmison said. “I wish I could wait until I have an accident until I pay my premium on my car insurance, but it doesn’t work that way. So why should the fire service be looked at anything different?” 

The self dubbed Fire Critic, Rhett Fleitz, has no sympathy for the homeowner who didn’t pay his bill and he also thinks the fire department is wrongly the fall guy in this one.

This situation is a black eye for the fire service. The fault lies with the homeowners for not paying the $75 fee. However, the public will not view it as such. The media is also jumping on the band wagon…saying that the homeowner is the victim. The only thing that failed here was the homeowner not paying the fee. Everything else operated as it should.

So many people are pointing the finger towards the fire department. Once again, they fail to look at policies. This is bigger than the fire department. If someone wants to change the policies they need to look to the South Fulton City Government.

I don’t know if it’s just a poor choice of words or my good friend Rhett has finally snapped after taking years of abuse about being short. Rhett has me really worried about him when he writes, “Everything else operated as it should”. Huh?

I am starting to think that carpool I wrote about with Connie Xinos of Oak Brook, Illinois and the two council knuckleheads from Xenia, Ohio who want the firefighters to buy their own gear can now go in the HOV-4 lanes. Connie, give me a call for directions. Rhett will be standing at the curb waiting for you. Thank goodness IronFiremen.com is now aboard FireEMSBlogs.com so we can get something sensible from Roanoke. (BTW Rhett is so threatened about the blog by Willie Wines he put some frontal nudity on The Fire Critic today. I think we know who the real boob is. Desperate people do desperate things.)

Now back to our story. No, Rhett. Everything did not operate as it should. Firefighters put out fires and help people. They should not be put in the position where they can’t do that. And maybe it’s not the South Fulton Government that is necessarily the problem. Maybe Obion County should provide for its people by subsidizing the volunteer fire departments.

If that can’t be done, maybe a better answer to this problem comes from a Tennessee fire company with a similar issue. In the story below, after running into fundraising issues, the Karns VFD, five hours or so to the east of South Fulton, is going to a subscription type department. But it sounds like they are not refusing to respond to anyone’s emergency. They will bill those who aren’t members a pretty substantial fee for putting out a fire. 

Far from perfect and still objectionable. But at least this way it won’t bring about video on national television of firefighters looking like they are at a marshmellow roast while someone loses all of their belongings. Let the bill collectors, accountants and courts do what they are supposed to do while firefighters do their jobs. (And Rhett, go do your job, admit you were wrong and apologize to your co-worker Willie for trying to steal his thunder on his opening week.)

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  • Spencer

    I think things are bad, I mean really bad, with my volunteer department and rescue squad. Then, I read things like this and realize that they are not as bad as I thought. No one here would ever stand by and watch something like this happen, they might look rough trying to put the fire out but they would never watch somebody’s stuff burn up and not do anything about it. It goes againest our in grained genetic code as firemen! As far as Fleitz is concerned, he is a genuine nice guy, and someone who cares about the public and his brother firemen to the one hundreth degree. He understans the importance of knowing where you come from to appreciate where you are at today. He has suffered alot bringing some not so good things to light where he works, and he is a true hero in my book for doing so. Signed, No.1 Statter Fan in Va.

    • dave statter

      Thank you No. 1 Statter Fan in Va. Much appreciated. You are right I shouldn’t pick on Rhett. He can not help it if he’s short. Yes, we chronicled and are aware of some of Rhett’s fights. But you know I just had to spend a whole weekend with the guy and had to be on my best behavior considering the surroundings. I completely had to censor myself. It just all came out at once. Let me say something nice: Rhett you are not as short as you appear in person.

      Actually Rhett is a very good guy. He just happens to be wrong in this case (and I will defend his right to be wrong to the bitter end). As for showing boobs to drum up business, well maybe I am just jealous I can’t get away with it.

  • Pipeman

    Unbelievable! Is this common practice to charge for service?

  • Anonymous

    America has become a welfare society where people are trained to think everything is free and they are entitled to it all. Unfortunately firetrucks, training and equipment are not free even if the firefighters are willing to volunteer their time. This is an unfortunate situation that sheds light on a bigger problem. Fire Departments whether paid or volunteer require funds to operate and the public must provide those funds either through donations or taxes. It saddens me to think that public servants are an afterthought in todays society until we are needed and then we didn’t get there fast enough or we didn’t save enough or they are going to sue us etc. etc. Its a wonder there are any volunteers left. Stay safe Brothers!

  • chiefreason

    I can’t help but admire the way this “victim” is REALLY working it.
    It is simply masterful.
    In the meantime, the hard work of many good fire departments are taking a gut punch, because a fee wasn’t paid and a response wasn’t made.
    I am not fond of the “subscription” method of funding, but when people don’t want to be taxed for it, what else is there?
    We are our brother’s keepers, but we are not their mom and dad.
    Plenty of poor decisions all the way around.
    I don’t think it lies solely with the fire department.
    And you know why Rhett is short. He drinks his coffee from a FireGeezer coffee mug. Blame him. :-)

  • Texas Gordo

    Dave,

    I think Noah ran into a similar issue with the unicorns during the Great Flood, and their lack of insurance. This would explain their overall absence from the current historical record.

    I’m going to compare apples to oranges here. I realize that no one lost their lives, and that these individuals are trying to do what they think is best for the community, but I think they landed on the wrong side with their actions and choices.

    In 1982 an Air Florida flight from DC to Ft. Lauderdale slammed into the 14th street bridge. As I recall it there were only a few passengers that survived the impact and made it to the ice choked surface of the river. I think (and here my memory is foggy), that a Park Service helicopter was able to lower a sling into the water to make rescues, and that a single passenger kept helping other survivors into the sling, long after they had ceased to have control over the limbs. He saved several people and died due to hypothermia and drowning (I seem to recall that his lungs were the only ones with traces of aviation fuel).

    I’m also reminded of Miep Gies, the woman that helped to hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis, after their invasion of Holland.

    I hope that when the situation calls for it, that I will be at least as brave as these two.

    • dave statter

      Gordo,

      That would be Arland Williams. As I recall he was a businessman from Atlanta. The inbound span of the 14th Street Bridge complex is named after Williams.

      The date was January 13, 1982. The time 1600 hours. Air Florida Flight 90.

      I lived in Pentagon City then, heard it on the scanner and worked my way into a fifth floor room of the now gone Twin Bridges Marriott (I believe that was the original Marriott hotel). I watched with binoculars as Donald Usher and Gene Windsor aboard the US Park Police Eagle helicopter (they hate it when you say Park Service) made the rescues. I did the first reports for WTOP Radio.

      A short time later that afternoon a Metrorail train derailed in SW Washington killing three people.

      The other great hero of the day was a worker from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital named Roger Olian. The survivors say before the chopper got there they thought they were dead and that no one would save them in the icy river. When they saw Olian jump in and swim toward them it gave them hope they would be saved. Olian never got to them and is lucky he didn’t drown, but he is also a hero in my book.

      Here’s something I wrote a while back on Palm 90′s crash- http://statter911.com/2009/01/16/a-look-back-to-another-river-crash-air-florida-flight-90-in-dc-had-a-significant-impact-on-regional-cooperation-and-crew-resource-management/

      BTW, there is a common misconception that ice on the wings brought down the airplane. It is a fact they did not de-ice as they should have. But what the NTSB discovered is that a sensor iced over and in turn gave high false thrust indicator readings. They didn’t have enough power causing an aerodynamic stall.

      Statter

  • BH

    For 20 years the residents of this area have had the chance to vote themselves a tax to pay for a fire department.

    They refused.

    A subscription service was instituted.

    Some paid- and obviously, some didn’t.

    No sympathy.

    As far as allowing those who have not paid the fee to get service and then a bill for it later, I would never support that if I lived in the area and paid my up-front fee. Why should we assume that someone who hasn’t paid the fee can come up with the cash in the event of a fire? So they don’t pay to support the department, and in the (unlikely) event of a fire, the suckers paying their $75 have to watch the fire department THEY paid for putting out a fire for somebody who didn’t and who after incident mitigation has no incentive to pay a dime!

    And besides- anybody who goes on the Keith Olbermann show to complain about not getting a service he didn’t pay for deserves every bit of what he got. Consorting with that jackass should be considered the equivalent of Godwin’s Law- whatever the argument is, you automatically lose.

  • PPFD

    I’d bet these people have a cell phone or 3, cable or dish TV or maybe both, a few car payments, maybe a credit card or 10. Maybe smoke, chew or drink a little beer. And lets not forget a pizza a few times a month. I’m no mathematician but, looks like all this would cost a lot more than a yearly $75.00 fee. Lets not forget the loser that decided to assault the Chief, yeah thats gonna cost more than $75.00.

    Look around, cities are “axing” FD budgets and now we firemen are crying because some family chose not to pay a super cheap price for fire coverage? Sounds like the city has no responsibility to even go past the borders. But, they will for a very cheap price. Why should people of the county get free service on the city taxpayers dollar?

    I really don’t have any sympathy for anyone that does not pay for insurance. Seriously, how would you all feel if some welf. driving their ghetto sled plowed into your car and had no insurance. No one would be defending them would you. Same with this fee. Hell, these people already had a “free fire”. And I love the “I’ll pay you now that my house is on fire!!”.

    Nothing is free including fire service.

    • dave statter

      To me it isn’t about the sympathy for the homeowner. In fact, didn’t he say that the same thing happened to his boy, but they allowed him to pay to play at the time of the small fire?

      I don’t care how wrong the homeowner is, this is just bad for the image of firefighters and the fire service. They shouldn’t be put in that position. It shouldn’t be happening in the 21st Century.

      Hey, Connie Xinos wants to privatize fire protection. To me there are a lot of similarities.

      Firefighters put out fires and this crap shouldn’t get in the way of it.

      Statter

  • Anonymous

    Maybe I am old school… paid on call for 16 years. I would never let a building burn if if I was passing by in my auto or fire equipment would do what I could with what I had or could beg borrow or steal….. Damn.. if the home owner was not current with fees then help them and get the fees later with interest …So sad..

  • Retired Chief

    I was also a volunteer firefighter in Maryland in the 70s (in the county to the west of where Dave was a volunteer) and I recall also being quite outraged reading the stories, usually from the West and South, of firefighters watching homes burn because someone wasn’t on the department’s subscription or membership list.

    After being hired as a Carrer Fire Fighter and years later accepting a Chief position in the West, I quickly learned about this type of situation. My department, out West, was a Fire Protection District, a taxing District. We responded 20 miles out of the District and charged @250.00 per truck per hour. In most cased the homeowner’s or vehicle owner’s insurance paid these charges. We never refused a response or service.

    Peope who live outside a Fire District or in a Subscription area know the liaibility. They assume the risk. Just like those who live in an mountainous area who refuse the provide a defensive space between their homes and the landscape. Fire Departments must make a decision, is the home defensible or not. If not, just might burn.

    It is the homeowners responsibility to know what services they receive in the area they live. My generation was taught to take responsbility for OUR actions or inactions.

    • dave statter

      I am in total agreement chief about responsibility. But I don’t care how wrong the homeowner is, the fire department and the fire service looks bad with this crap. Karns VFD has a better idea.

      Some day the fire department is going to make a mistake and not fight one of these and someone is going to die. There are also people who are destitute who really have the choice of putting food in the mouths of their kids or paying the $75 bill. I am not saying this guy is one of them. But there are too many variables and it wasn’t a good system when we were volunteers reading about it almost 40-years-ago and it isn’t now.

      Thanks for the comment and the insight.

      Dave

  • K.Stokes

    BH hit the nail on the head. Most people who are blaming the fire department know nothing of this area and how it operates. Look into the voting history. These people voted AGAINST a fire tax to pay for services. Do they think it costs nothing to operate a fire department? Is the city just supposed to sit back and take a hit when a non member county resident needs service? No one said the system is the right one, but it is the one the CITIZENS have chosen to live under for decades.

    Fact is, the city does the county residents a favor by offering this service. This homeowner took a gamble by not paying for that service. Now he is somehow the victim? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. He should have paid the fee if he wanted fire protection.

    Honestly, Dave, I expected you to see through the BS on this one. I am disapointed to say the least.

    • dave statter

      My wife is often dissapointed in me too. What can I say? I am just not very good.

      I get all of what you are saying and in theory many of your arguments make sense. In practice it is bad for firefighters and it just shouldn’t happen. If you have to do it this way the Karns VFD has a much better idea. Put the fire out and bill them for lots of money. In many cases insurance will likely pay for it.

      The fire service looks bad and you aren’t going to win this one with the general public.

  • steve

    Ive got experience with a subscription department as well as the typical Vol depart. If the money aint there for operations, what are you gonna do? SOMEONE has to pony up for membership fees. As a previous poster said….its like car insurance. Sorry to the victims, but YOU chose not to pay so you lose. Its a calculated gamble. Ive been in a situation where we had to take up a collection from our own pockets to put gas in the trucks because the budgets had been slashed. NOT PRETTY.

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  • K.Stokes

    I don’t think you have anyone here saying that it is, Dave. What I am saying is that you have a system that the citizens choose to live under, and the fire department must respond and act accordingly. That is the system they choose, and they are fine with it until something like this happens.

    This homeowner wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He is not a victim, he is an idiot.

    A fire department cannot run off of money collected when there is a need for it. There has to be money there to make sure it is ALREADY there and ready to go when needed. This is where the subscriptions came in. You don’t pay, you don’t get service. Just like garbage pickup, electricity, etc.

  • K.Stokes

    And furthermore, houses could burn, property could be lost and people could even die, and all would still not be the responsibility of the South Fulton Fire Dept. They have no obligation to provide service to the county residents. Some choose to pay for it. They are the ones who will receive it.

    • dave statter

      In theory a lot of what you are saying makes sense. But in reality the fire department looks bad and will continue to look bad when firefighters don’t do what the public expects them to do.

      If you must do this, the Karns VFDD model makes a lot more sense.

      Statter

  • http://firecritic.com Fire Critic

    Dave,

    I left you a response here: http://firecritic.com/2010/10/south-fulton-fiasco-dave-statters-intellect-and-teddy-bears/

    I know you have fun disagreeing with me, but I feel as though the only difference between you and I is that I am leaning on the Council and you are leaning on the FD. The problem isn’t in the FD’s hands.

    • dave statter

      No Rhett. Apparently it isn’t just your body that is small. My beef with you is simple. Let me try it again. This time I will say it real slow. You wrote, ”Everything else operated as it should”, meaning the only mistake was by the homeowner.

      Not it didn’t. It should never operate this way. Firefighters should never be in that position. Read all of my other comment replies to learn why.

      If the citizens and the government can’t get their acts together on this it’s time for the FD to show leadership. That’s what Karns VFD is doing.

  • Chris

    There are ways to collect funds… real businesses have been doing it for decades. We will never know how the home owner paid in prior years and if he was chronically late. But, we do know he paid.

    It is appears the city hasn’t created a system to allow everyone to be successful. What does that mean? Several folks have made suggestions… Even if they billed homeowners $10 a month. Regardless, this city has legalized this crime and it directly conflicts with the International Association of Fire Fighers’ code of ethics. See below. Nice job, city commissioners, mayor, city manager and fire chief. I think you just made the hall of shame.

    As a firefighter and member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, my fundamental duty is to serve humanity; to safeguard and preserve life and property against the elements of fire and disaster; and maintain a proficiency in the art and science of fire engineering.
    I will uphold the standards of my profession, continually search for new and improved methods and share my knowledge and skills with my contemporaries and descendants.

    I will never allow personal feelings, nor danger to self, deter me from my responsibilities as a firefighter.

    I will at all times, respect the property and rights of all men and women, the laws of my community and my country, and the chosen way of life of my fellow citizens.

    I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the fire service. I will constantly strive to achieve the objectives and ideals, dedicating myself to my chosen profession–saving of life, fire prevention and fire suppression.

    As a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, I accept this self-imposed and self-enforced obligation as my responsibility.

  • http://firecritic.com Fire Critic

    Dave,

    You are taking my remark about working as it should out of context. My statement was made about everything working the way it is set up in Obion County. Everything did work as it should have.

    They have a system and the policy is in place that if you pay you get fire protection.

    You cannot argue that.

    The homeowner did not pay, therefore he did not get fire protection.

    Everything worked the way it was set up and should have.

    Sure, it is a system set up for failure. The system sucks…bad.

    What is the other side of the rainbow? A complete paid department with adequate personnel, apparatus, and stations in Obion County? Maybe, but FD’s like that don’t just show up one day. Obion County needs to do something about this issue for their tax payers.

  • http://www.thebigeyeinfairfax.net The Big Eye

    Dave -

    Your outrage should be directed at the system of pay-for-fire-protection, not the decision to let the guys house burn. No one would pay for fire protection, if they all know they will respond and provide service anyway. I would submit that it is a barbaric system to begin with, and that should be the focus of any outrage.

  • Anonymous

    Chris, I hope you are the exception to the rule but I have to throw the BS flag on your IAFF speach. The unions main goal is to pad your pockets and run volunteers out of existence. Just ask anyone in PG County. Read the recent headlines. Unions are more worried about evading drug test and growing beards than helping any citzens.Sorry this is a little off topic but its a fact.

  • JS

    Just a thought — do they also charge for auto accidents, EMS, or other services? If you don’t pay ahead of time — you die. I volunteered in 2 different states that had different funding models. In VA — county funded with yearly VFD fund drives to supplement additional needs. In WV — each station billed a $40 yearly fee — could not refuse service by law if you didn’t pay. EMS provided by each dept. and patient was billed for transport. Seemed to work fairly well.

  • E1LT

    Will the insurance companies mind if I don’t pay my premium until after I bang up my car? This guy figured he wouldn’t pay the money because his house would never catch on fire. He gambled and lost. Those are the rules where he lives. Might not make sense to most, however, it does to those folks. Everyone knew the consequences ahead of time and was able to make their own decisions.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t this how the fire service started back in the day? If I recall correctly (from reading not experience) the early FDs contracted with insurance companies to protect property. Each property was marked with an insurance plaque (which are now highly valuable collectables). If the fire company went to a fire and there was not a plaque or the property had another company’s plaque, they didn’t put out the fire. Seems like this system in South Fulton is a throwback to days of old, or maybe a carry-over. Didn’t work well then, still makes us all look bad.

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  • Spencer

    Dave Statter: Just thought of a story I heard years ago related to this incident. Right before World War II, when England was getting ready to be overrun by the nazis, (You historians out there correct me if I am wrong) President Roosevelt started to sell old naval destroyers,small arms, and munitions to the English. Apperently, because the English were short of funds, this was done on some sort of loan program as their was immediate need for the equipment and munitions. President Roosevelt was called on the carpet by folks in Congress about this. In justifying this series of transactions, he gave a story, saying, “Let’s say your neighbors house catches on fire. You don’t make your neighbor pay for your garden hose to use to put the fire out. you let your neighbor use the hose to put out the fire, and then you work that out afterwards”. The rest is history, and the program was a sucess and used not only for England but also for Russia latter on. I am sure this story was used and is on the internet somewhere…Put the fire out first, work out the other stuff later. No.1 Statter Fan in Virginia

  • Carmen

    I think the bigger message is missed here. Yes the homeowner did not pay. Which makes the homeowner at fault. However, the fire department has a code of honor to up hold and who ever directed them not to protect and serve is wrong! To be quite honest I think the homeowner should of been charged a fee for the service and not 75 dollars but an actual cost breakdown for providing the service. If the home owner is not responsible enough to pay the minimal fee of 75 dollars they will run the chance of having to pay a full cost for providing the service. I am guessing that it would be a lot more. In this case the homeowner is an idiot however so is the department for not acting.

  • Clark de Bear

    First of all, I don’t apologize for the tone of the comment – this comment – that I’m about to leave (Dave, feel free to add symbols in place of words where you feel appropriate).

    Jesus H Christ!

    Is this story REALLY a matter of debate?!

    *deep breath*

    How the hell can any of you defend the actions of this “fire department”? How the hell can any one of you who has ever pissed and moaned about the negative way the public preceives the fire service today applaud the actions of this “fire department”?

    Any one of you who has ever commented on this about hose size, aggressive firefighting and/or who’s FD is better than who’s FD had either condemn this or turn in your gear and apply for a position with the South Fulton “Fire Department”.

    Are you f-ing kidding me?! Sure, you hear stories about this from time to time, but I never thought I’d live to see the day when firefighters would defend this reckless and detrimental action.

    As I see it, this is nothing short of extortion; it’s no different than some thug walking in to a corner store and shaking down the owner.

    Is this not criminal? Seriously. How is this not “risking a catastrophe”?

    The fire service has a hard enough time getting the respect it once had (and apparently took for granted) without BS from @$$holes like these.

    Does this “fire department” do public education at schools? If so, do they remove the children of the parents who haven’t paid the $75? Maybe the next fire at a non-payer will be someone who simply couldn’t afford the $75. Do they deserve to lose everything – including possibly a loved one – because they couldn’t afford the fee?!

    I don’t know, but I know the fire service doesn’t deserve the black eye we all just got from the actions of this “fire department”.

    I hope the TN state’s Attorney General looks into this. Hell, I hope the US Justice Dpeartment looks into this. This simply cannot be allowed to simply fade away. This must be dealt with… and leading the way should be those of us who believe, whether we’re career or volunteer firefighters – our first and primary mission is to protect property and save lives, and NOT check a balance sheet before we do.

    UGH! I feel like punching someone! Anyone seen Mr. Xinos?

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  • Lugg

    Point 1. Insurance is not optional, you have to pay to play. You can not wait until after you have a car wreck to buy insurance. You can’t have surgery and then buy health insurance after the fact. Something about pre-existing conditions.

    Point 2. Talking to K. Olbermann is an automatic disqualification of one’s intelligence.

    Point 3. Sometimes Rhett is actually right (I did not get paid to say that). He is short, but right. The town’s system is what it is. Sadly, it did work the way it was designed. The voter’s shot down the tax. Blame the towns policies, not the FD.

    Point 4. Yes, it sucks that a house burned and the FD did not extinguish it. No doubt there will be bad PR for a long, long time to come. It is still the homeowners choice, not the FD’s.

    Point 5. Doctors, do not harm. Firefighters, do what you are told (Obey policies). Refer to pt #4.

    Point 6. I worked with Rhett one time a few years ago in Roanoke City and he actually put Worcestershire sauce in the sausage gravy. One of the really tall firefighters almost strangled him for it. It was a bad scene. Remember that Rhett?

    Peace out!

  • Anonymous

    “dave statter says
    My wife is often dissapointed in me too. What can I say? I am just not very good.”

    Maybe if you wern’t on the computer “blogging” until 12:59 am…

    • dave statter

      Amen,

      Mrs. STATter911

  • Anonymous

    and realistically, what is the diference between this in Tn. and the recent fire you covered in Mn.?

  • Le geros

    Are firefighters too willing to give their services away for free? Okay, that’s a raw-meat-thrown-to-hungry-dogs question. But it makes me think of something I heard 20 years ago, by a firefighter. We were talking about how members of a municipal department showed up and helped out at major or multi-alarm fires. The firefighter said he would never do that, because it demonstrated to the city officials that they could “make do” with fewer firefighters. E.g., lower staffing. Because there were others who would help out for free.

    Bear with me and my thinking, please. Calamities tend to compel participation in people. Same with fires. It’s one of those primal emergencies. It’s also a force of nature that does worse as it gets worse. Societies have placed great value on the suppression of (and prevention of) fires. And they’ve done pretty good at allocating resources for same, though maybe more reactively than proactive. E.g., it’s after the big fire that the big improvements to the infrastructure happen. (And I would need to put my historian hat on, to fully think that through. The role of insurance companies, the role of city planners, etc.)

    We’ve got a lot in the mix of this issue. Reputation or image. Politics or policy. Rural versus urban. And ultimately allocation of resources. Emergency rooms make patients wait if they don’t have insurance. Those without obvious life-threatening conditions, that is. Subscription fire departments are permitted by their policies to remain inactive at a fire. Those without life hazards present, that is. Apples to oranges? Don’t know. (Health care versus fire protection. Could be dangerous territory there!) But maybe these musings are food for additional thinking.

  • http://firecritic.com Fire Critic

    Lugg,

    Yes I remember putting Worcestershire sauce in the sausage gravy. I also remember cooking quiche for that crew!

    I cannot claim the Worcestershire sauce recipe though. That is one that several other guys cook in Roanoke as well.

    One thing I can say about all of these comments. Most of them point to a broken system. That system needs to be overhauled. I think that the taxpayers of Obion County need to put their local government to task and have them come up with a more efficient, safer, and effective solution.

    • dave statter

      Rhett,

      I thought you ranted and raved about bloggers who leave comments on the sites of other bloggers and how improper that was. Oh I’m sorry. I got you mixed up with someone else (as I always seem to do).

      Statter

  • dale

    Let me see if I understand things. The county establishes a fire district outside the city limits of a city. Those that live within that defined fire district limits are required to pay $75 annual fee if they want Fire protection services from the city. This homeowner (for whatever reason) did not pay the fee.

    Question #1- had the homeowner paid the fee in years past? Or had he simply ignored it for all the years he lived at that home? If he had never paid it, was he ignorant of the need to pay it or simply chose to “gamble” with his property? Did he have fire insurance on his home?

    Question #2- Did the people that lived within that defined fire district area clearly understand that they were “at risk” if the did not pay the annual fee? I know my insurance company sends invoices and even reminder notices that my annual premiums are coming due.

    Question #3- Did the fire department actually respond to his request for help or did they respond when a neighboring home (which had paid the fire fee) called for help? There is a big distinction here that has been upheld in past court rulings that if an agency receives a call for help from someone that may not be entitled to a response, they need to inform them at that time. If they don’t, then they have a duty to respond since the caller assumes they are going to act. Otherwise, they have provided false hope to the caller and did not provide the caller with the opportunity to make other decisions and possibly seek help from another agency.

    If the fire department responded with apparatus to his initial call, then it appears that they may have a “duty to act” in the absence of any specific legal prohibition that they cannot act to fight the fire (or whatever emergency they may encounter.)

    Some legal issues may arise if a firefighter was injured or killed fighting a fire for which they were not obligated to fight. That can lead to a situation where survivors benefits could be reduced or denied since the victim was not legally obligated to act. There are court cases that have ruled on similiar situations.

    Recall that a major fire service publication profiled a similiar situation in Alaska some time ago where a fire destroyed a very large home while the fire department did not fight it simply because the homeowner (who could obviously afford it) simply chose not to pay the annual subscription fee (for whatever reason.)

    I recently moved from a major city with a career department to another area that is immediately adjacent to another city limits with its career department (and a station less than a mile away.) But since I live outside the city limits, I am covered by a volunteer department with a station about 4.5 miles away. I knew that when I purchased my home. The county I now live in recently passed a $2.50/month fee on my annual tax bill that is specifically collected for the sole benefit of the various volunteer fire depts. in my new county of residence. I gladly pay it. While that is not a windfall to any of those departments, it is a method of ensuring that they have at least one steady source of income for fuel, utilities, supplies, maintenance, etc. instead of relying of chicken dinners and other unreliable fundraisers.

    As for the homeowner offering to pay the fee now that his home was on fire, I must agree with those that state you cannot pay for insurance after you have a loss. If the homeowner did not have fire insurance, I find it hard to imagine that the city would be able to collect any charges for the services they would have rendered since that resident doesn’t live in the city limits- their course of remedies would be very limited in any attempt to collect these fees, no matter the amount. I worked in public safety for over 20 years and saw many such situations where a portion of the public that received emergency services thought that they were “entitled” to not pay the fees they had incurred. That places a larger burden on those of us who do act responsibly and pay our bills, taxes, etc.

  • Steve

    I must agree with those who place the blame with the homeowner. This has happened before, there is nothing new here. In some prior cases the issue that emerged was that the fire company’s insurance limited them to action involving a dues paying customer. Why should the fire company be expected to risk thier equipment, take on liability, or have one of their personnel injured then have to fight an insurance carrier all because a homeowner was convinced they would never need the fire department? Sorry Dave, no outrage here.

  • Texas Gordo

    @ Dave,

    A great article, and please let this stand as my apology for the poor use of nomenclature for the Park Police air wing.

    @ Spencer,

    My family lived in England and faced both Germany and Japan in the war. My relatives spent time in Japanese POW camps, and my mother’s home was hit during the Blitz. We were quite pleased with Mr. Roosevelt’s non-isolationist policy, and the use of the garden hose. I’d point out that my relatives have done their best to repay that loan by serving in Vietnam with the Australian military and in Afghanistan and Iraq with the underfunded British military.

    Why do we bother to hand out smoke detectors and check for their proper operation? Shouldn’t those home owners care enough to do it themselves. They can find the money somewhere, and the smell and screams of your neighbors watching their children burn to death should be enough motivation for you to buy your own smoke detectors, practice an evacuation, buy a fire extinguisher, give up smoking at home, have your wiring checked by an electrician, never leave a stove unattended.

    Could we please stop having to respond to MVAs where someone was speeding, didn’t wear their seat-belt (and this would include all firemen and cops), or were DUI.

    Could we stop with the water rescues on thin ice, in areas with posted signs prohibiting swimming, and for people that go out in storms.

    I understand that everyone wants something without having to pay the full share. However I don’t mind that my taxes are disproportionally spent to pay for the profoundly mentally and physically handicapped child down the street. It isn’t a fair system, because my neighbor’s kid gets much more of the school district’s money than mine does. But I happen to think it is part of the cost and reward of living in this country.

  • Pay to play or shut the hockey stick up

    Ok Ok Ok, if it was a cop from that town and the guy called 911 and said someone is stealing his car and the guy lived out in the township. WOuld the cop respond? NO. Its out of his jurisdiction.
    If every Fire Department in that county closed down, would it be that single towns responsibility to protect the whole county?
    WHy doesn’t that township form its own FD?
    Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for the guy who’s house burned down, but where does that towns fire department’s responsibility end?

  • chiefreason

    Subscription fee systems for funding fire departments SUCK.
    Fire departments can’t change that system.
    Citizens and governments are the only ones who can change that system.
    If the fire department had broken from the policy, then what would be their next act of defiance or insubordination? Just like the military, the fire service must rely on a close set of orders and chain of command. Tell a general to stick it in his ear and see where your career goes.
    I wish that this incident had turned out better for all involved, but in case you haven’t noticed, the homeowner is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame.
    And the fire department keeps getting gut punched.
    I’m with you on this one, Rhett…
    All 5’8″ of me.

    • dave statter

      I pick on Rhett because in so many other ways he’s a big target.

      I am not saying it’s the fault of the firefighters. But they are the ones who will be seen sitting around doing nothing.

      You can’t get much worse publicity than firefighters sitting around watching a house burn. It doesn’t matter who is at fault. The chiefs of the departments in the area shouldn’t tolerate it. Change it to a system like Karns is going to. Then at least you don’t have such an awful decision to make. Let the bill collectors and lawyers be the bad guys. Not the firefighters.

      Statter

  • VollyFF

    I am, and always will be, straddling the fence on this one. While yes, the homeowner should have paid his bill in the same way we pay our bills to keep our utilities on and a roof over our heads, and he should be punished in the same way as you would if a payment was missed on a “normal” bill, penalizing to the point of losing EVERYTHING and having to start over from scratch is just wrong.

    Yes, there are rules in place and rules are supposed to be followed, but what would’ve happened if everyone on that block hadn’t paid? So now, the entire block is up in flames.

    Both sides have their good points, but both have their bad. Unfortunately, for John Q. Public, it will always be looked at as the fire department is the ogre and the homeowner could do no wrong.

  • Reality check

    Just like this story and the story of the radio DJ trash talkin the fire department…there are some people out there that think the FD is a piece of useless crap and couldn’t care less about us………until it their heiner in the heat. Yeh well its too late. And one of the big reasons this happens is because so many Firemen are the Fire martyrs, Oh we have to do it, its our duty!!! W-R-O-N-G = WRONG. Your duty is to your wife and kids, to provide for them and take care of them. Face it oh moral fireman–you can’t extiguish the whole world.

  • Anonymous

    In reading the comments it seems there are points of Legal Reason/Common Sense here. I would ask to those who critcize the Home Owner, (1) Yes this Home Owner didnot pay the Subscription Fee. (2) That does not excuse the Fire Dept. from providing immediate Help in this time of Life Threatening Crisis. (3) Would the Fire Dept have done nothing if let’s say this man came screaming to them My Family (Wife/Children) are Trapped inside please save my Family? Ok this man I am inclined to give the Benefit of the doubt to this Home Owner, He apparently realized his mistake in not paying the $75.00 Yearly fee. The Fire Dept is in Service to “Provide and Serve the Public. Is $75.00 worth everything this man has worked Hard for to Provide for his Family being Destroyed due to a Financial Decision? The Fire Dept had a definitive purpose to put out this Fire. After the Fire then the Man must realize the errors of his decision. The Mayor in all of his ignorant Redneck Mentality should be ashamed of himself for his words. One can only hope the Fire Dept can also realize their ignorance and out and out negligence to serve and protect.
    This Incident has proven to be an absolute shameful disgrace to all of the Good Well Trained Firefighters who everyday strive to ensure the Public is Served the best Customer Service. A Dollar Figure vs. a Man’s Life time hard work and belongings gone. A Basic Body of Common Sense and a real determination to serve and protect was ignored. The Mayor The Fire Chief, The entire Fire Dept, everyone of you make me sick.

    Thank You

  • Ron W.

    All I hear and read about this incident is the $75.00. I am not going to get into whether or not he should have paid or not.

    The bottom line is when there is a crisis situation, you do what is needed to end the crisis, and then work out the details later.

    There are many resources open where they could have gotten the full cost of fighting this fire, more than $75.00 I’m sure, such as putting a lien on the property, fining the resident, make him pay all the costs.

    But to stand by and watch as the home burns to the ground, with 3 dogs inside, is inhuman.

    As an American, I have always believed in helping my neighbor no matter what.

    It’s a good thing South Fulton was not in charge at 911, the death toll would have been a lot worse.

  • Anonymous

    I can not be the whiny liberals on here. If you don’t pay for service you do not get service. It is a simple concept. I am tired of being taxed for people who do not wish to pay for service. These are choices that an individual makes. If you choose to have 3 kids prior to turning 18 that is your choice. I am sick and tired of feeding your kids and paying your rent. If the fire system out there is broken, then the citizens need to change it. Stop blaming everyone else but yourself for your problems.

  • Fyrecapt

    I dont care what the reason was….Someone could of paid $75.00 and put the damn fire out!!

    How pathetic are we??? We took an oath to protect and to serve!
    Life, property and the environment.

    Paid, vollie, private… it doesnt make one difference. Each one of us knows our responsibilities as a PUBLIC SERVANT.

    And while our services do cost a great deal of money to operate, it by no means gives us the right to sit and watch someones home go up in flames.

    Across the country we are cutting service left and right because of this shitty economy. Things like this only give the public ammunition to hate us more and not feel sympathetic to our cause.

    Lets change the circumstances.. What if Mr.Cranik was having a medical issue and the Private Paramedics said sorry, you NO PAY!! You get no ambulance???

  • The Ole Medic

    For an interesting take on this story, take a look at the comments on Slashdot;

    http://idle.slashdot.org/story/10/10/06/1332252/Firefighters-Let-House-Burn-Because-Owner-Didnt-Pay-Fee

    At the time this comment was posted there were over 1500 comments on the story. Now unless you are into technology, you probably never heard of Slashdot, cause it is a site for the geeks among us (their motto is, “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters.”).

    It makes for interesting reading as these are more the types of comments you might expect to hear from the general public, not those with an interest in the Fire Service.

    BTW, this is one of the most commented stories I have ever seen on Slashdot. The typical story has about 200-300 comments.

  • GM JANE

    I am an “average citizen non firefighter rabid fan” of this site!! I never way in on things because obviously I have no right to, not being a firefighter/EMS person.
    I would like to say in this case though, THANK YOU to ALL Firefighters/EMS people for everything that you do everyday. I am sorry that you are being attacked on this issue. You clearly do not deserve it. (I would GLADLY pay the fee for you services if it was asked of me.)
    Unfortunately, there are many people who feel that they do not want to pay this type of fee. Their reasons, “it won’t happen to me” “they’ll put it out if it catches fire, don’t worry!” “this is a BS fee, I’ll pay it if my house burns down” and my favorite one “I’ll take my chances” But of course when it does happen to them they are the first ones screaming and complaining about how “unfair” everyone is to them. It’s unfortunate that something as important as this comes down to a fee for service. They should be made to sign a waiver that if the fire dept. responds they will be billed “X dollars per hour per engine” etc. and if you don’t pay it within 30 days after the fire we will take your house, {or your land and the charred remains! ) This might get more to pay. No matter what…It’s not the fire depts problem. Keep your heads up. You are all AWESOME !! ( yes, even you HOOKMAN !!) Thanks again for everything you do for us. And Dave, you and your website are AWESOME. Thanks again. Love the firefighters!! Aveage Citizen.

  • http://www.report-on-conditions.blogspot.com Joseph Schmoe

    I have to disagree with you on this one Mr. Statter. The citizens of the city are under no obligation to subsidize fire protection for a county that does not care enough to provide fire protection for it’s citizens.

    Many solutions are available for the county to provide protection to unincorporated areas of the county. Formation of their own fire department, contracting with the city to provide protection, formation of a community services district to allow collection of funds to pay for city responses are just a few.

    Instead, the county chose to do nothing and leave it up to the residents to subscribe. Like many people, this “victim” elected not to participate, thinking he would never have a fire. He miscalculated and lost everything. Now, the city officials, including the fire chief, are being vilified in the media for protecting the interests of the people that they represent. Odd.

    Had the fire department extinguished the fire, others in the community would likely not subscribe, knowing that any fire would be extinguished anyway. As it is, I am sure that the subscription rate will rise after this event.

    This incident is similar to when unincorporated communities votes against annexation time after time, then whine when the neighboring city denies services.

    The blame on this lies solely with the property owner, he rolled the dice and lost. As you can tell, I am not buying that he “forgot”.

    If public officials must be blamed, blame the county for not making the protection of it’s citizens a priority.

    Thanks Mr. Statter for your fine work. Despite my disagreement with you on this issue, I remain a most loyal reader and fan.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Schmoe

    • dave statter

      Joe,

      I’m always glad to have someone disagree with me so nicely (as if I set a good example with Rhett).

      A number of people are making the points you make. And there is little argument that technically you are correct on probably all counts. But in this case following all of the rules gives you the wrong answer. Not only is it the answer that is morally wrong and goes against what firefighters are all about, it is the answer that gives the fire service a black eye.

      Let me be clear, I am not defending the homeowner. And you are also right that South Fulton is probably under no obligation to protect the county (except by the agreement that set up this scenario). In fact, my point is they should not put themselves in this position. No fire department should. It is not what firefighters do.

      As Jeff Bressler writes in the Fire PIO there is plenty of blame to go around. But it is the fire department that looks bad.

      What I am saying to the fire department (and any others who have these set-ups) is don’t put yourself in this no-win situation in the future. You would look much better sending the man a bill for a couple of thousand dollars after you put out the fire (the Karns VFD model) than sitting there looking like you are at a football rally bonfire.

      Thanks Joe for being such a loyal reader and sticking with me even when you think I am wrong.

      Dave

  • Fyrecapt

    Dave,

    You are so correct in your last statement! There are so many ways this could have been avoided-payment plans, billing for service, etc.

    Dont think that agencies nationwide that use this type of service aren’t re-thinking their policies.

    The homeowner is responsible for making the decision not to pay. However, the fire dept is just as responsible for not putting the fire out.

    Granted, many in our country take advantage receiving service they dont pay for(taxes), but it is not our job to question that, its the politicians.

    Working in California, we have a great deal of “poor” families that cannot pay taxes let alone pay for rent…. But when they call 911, we respond without question!

    That is our JOB! It is why we joined this profession- TO HELP OTHERS IN NEED!!!!

  • Anonymous

    The same thing happened to me today when my car caught on fire. I called GEICO to buy an insurance policy while the firefighters were putting out the fire. Wouldn’t you just know that the greedy bast..ds wouldn’t sell me one.

    I am going to send my son to beat up the insurance agent.

  • Bob

    I have to agree with the fire department standing there ground and letting the home burn. NOTHING is free -

    What happens if a guy gets hurt batteling this fire? Is the insurance company that carries the fire department going to cover them if they are fighting a fire in an unpaid resident’s fire? That might be (or might not be) a loop hole for the insurance company to get out of covering an injured firefighter cause the firefighter sghouldn’t have been there anyway.

    What happens when they (the fire company) are fighting this fire and a resident who paid the 75 bucks house catches fire? Who comes to the aid of that person? What kind of legal bind does that put the fire company in?

    What if this guy can’t pay the 75 dollars after all is said and done? Who picks up the tab for the resources used at this fire? Obviously the other people who paid there dues.

    This whole incident upsets me as everybody who is in favor of the home owner doesn’t realize the firefighter is an expensive business. Everybody had a fair chance to pay there dues and this person decided not to so to f-ing bad. Even the guy said he though they would shw up even if he didn’t pay the 75 dollars, he was nothing more then a free loader living off of all the other people who paid there dues.

    It’s simple people, you want services, pay your dues and taxes

    • dave statter

      So Bob, by your theory big city departments should not respond to the home of anyone who is delinquent on their taxes. Hey with CADs in the rigs, I am sure it could easily be done.

      If I am correct and they would have attacked the fire if they perceived a life safety hazard, someone still could get hurt fighting the fire. Not sure I am buying that argument.

      Statter

  • FF/EMT Bryant

    The thing about this is, if anyone researched the matter, if there is a life safety issue the SOG was overridden and the crews would do all they could to save the person inside.
    Pets are important sure, are they worth the life of a firefighter? No.

    • dave statter

      FF/EMT Bryant. Let me play devil’s advocate using two comments I’ve heard numerous times since writing this blog.

      “You don’t know it’s vacant until you do a search”.

      “We saved the dog from the river (or the icy pond) because we didn’t want there to be a further life safety issue by citizens trying to going in to make the rescue (or put out the fire)”

      Stop defending an indefensible policy. Even the fire chiefs down there are finally coming out saying it is a crappy system that needs to be ditched.

  • Roy Huscher

    As told of the early days of the Brighton Fire Dept., Monroe County, New York. A suburb bordering the City of Rochester. They received a call for a house fire near the Town of Brighton, City of Rochester border. Upon arrival of first men and company, they found a house showing heavy smoke. To their surprise, the Rochester Fire Dept. was on the scene, but standing by and watching the house burn. The reason? The house was just outside the city line. Their was no mutual aid agreements back in those days…

  • CBEMT

    But it is the fire department that looks bad.

    Why do you insist on making this your primary concern, rather than the ability of the FD to continue to provide service after proving (were they to put the fire out) that deadbeats will still get the same services as the paying citizens/suckers?

    You would look much better sending the man a bill for a couple of thousand dollars after you put out the fire

    And what on God’s green Eath makes you think they’d see a dime? For pete’s sake, I thought you were smarter than this.

    • dave statter

      If you are talking about me CBEMT, I’m not really that smart. And accept that fact.

      You are probably right that it is my stupidity to think that it is at all important for a fire department to have the trust of the people it serves. My bad.

      And I can see how you would want to add to your duties as firefighters making judgments about who gets your service and who doesn’t get your service instead of having someone else deal with it after you put the fire out. Again, I’m just an idiot.

      I will try to learn me something before I open my mouth again.

      Statter

  • CBEMT

    Way to answer the questions. Or not.

    For the record, South Fulton FD does not “serve” the people of Obion County. Nobody does. The department serves those who choose to be served. That’s the way their system works. Just because we don’t like it, or don’t get it, doesn’t mean anything in the long run. If they don’t like that system, they have the ability to change it, just like anybody else in America who don’t like what their elected leadership are doing (if that’s actually the case and the subscription system was a decision of the political entity and not via referendum of the voters).

    One of the “duties as firefighters” you seem so concerned about is the ability to serve as many people as possible with the resources we are given. This SFFD is given ZERO resources with which to “serve” the citizens of Obion County. The way they make up for that, within the system imposed on them, is subcriptions- the motivation for which is the desire of residents to have their house fires put out.

    If it turns out that their house fires will be extinguished whether they pay the fee or not, the department would be back to where they started before the subcription system- being asked to respond into an area that contributes nothing towards the ability of the department to do so. If I lived in South Fulton, and MY fire department that I paid for with MY taxes was fighting fires out in the county and left MY home and family unprotected, I think I’d be pretty po’d, and justifiably so.

    If I were one of the suckers paying my subcription fee and the freeloader across the street got his house saved partially thanks to MY contribution towards fire protection, I’d ALSO be pretty po’d, and also justabiably so.

    The minute they opened the bale on the first line, the freeloader has zero incentive to do anything but chuckle to himself that his gamble paid off- $75/year in his pocket times x number of years, but he got his anyway. Who cares what the bill is after the fact? What’s the FD gonna do, come back and re-light the fire if he doesn’t make good?

    The problem Dave is that you’re approaching this entire situation from an emotional standpoint- you’re worried about how it “looks” and how people “feel” about “their” fire department. Newsflash- they don’t have a fire department! And possibly until a few days ago, they seemed pretty ok with that! What they DO have is somebody ELSE’S fire department who without any obligation whatsoever have agreed to serve those who contribute to the cause, as it were.

    If those without a fire department are REALLY that worried about what will happen the next time an Obion County house catches fire, guess what? They’ll do something about it. It’s their responsibility (there’s that word again, despite the attempts of many to avoid it) as citizens to change their own situation via the democratic process if they find it no longer suitable for their needs.

    • dave statter

      Actually it’s not emotional and it’s not a knee jerk reaction. As I have said from the start you are technically right. There were rules. The man didn’t pay so they don’t play. Can’t do it because it will send the wrong message to the other homeowners.

      My point is they are sending the wrong message about firefighters. And Chief Reavis agrees. He doesn’t want to see any firefighters put in this position again.

      How it looks to the public is quite important. Sure, you can ignore that and not include it in your equation. I think the reputation of a fire department within its community is very important. I also think the damage this has done to the reputation of firefighters, particularly volunteers is significant.

      Statter

  • Kelly Edmison

    My name is Kelly Edmison. Chief of Union City Fire Dept. Union City TN. OBION County. We are 1 of the 8 city fire dept’s in Obion County. My department is the only fully paid dept.
    Even though my department (Union City, TN) was not the department involved, it has been extremely hard viewing the news media storm this past week; especially, when no one has reported the truth about the situation yet.

    Watching news cast after news cast with miss information makes me wonder just how much “other” news we see nightly about our country and world events is turned and twisted.

    Obion County Tennessee does not have a county fire department. It does have 8 municipal fire departments. Union City, TN is the only full time staffed department in the county. The other 7 departments are volunteer departments; but like Union City, are city departments. Again, Obion County does not have a county fire department. Sadly, Obion County is one of two counties in the state who do not provide fire protection. County residents do pay county taxes. However, no tax money goes towards fire coverage. The 8 municipal departments are funded by each of their city tax payers.

    Three of the cities, Union City, Kenton and South Fulton operate a subscription fire service in an attempt to help the rural people in their respective areas. Union City has operated this way for over 47 years. They all three charge a $75 per year fee. It’s not a tax. It’s not mandatory. But the service is there if they wish. The reason these three charge a fee, is because the cities do not feel it fair to take the city tax payers money and service and give it to county residents for free.

    Their policies are the same. With the exception of a life endanger; if you don’t pay; they don’t come.

    However, once South Fulton had to respond to take care of the neighbor whose property caught fire and was a subscriber, that’s the point where in my opinion the outcome probably would have been different. But I’m not South Fulton.

    But here is what the public doesn’t understand. Right, wrong or indifferent, it was not the decision of the South Fulton Fire Chief or of his firefighters to not put water on the structure. Their orders came from their city manager and mayor and council. Was it wrong? Everyone has an opinion (We would have put it out if for no other reason than that we had to come anyway and that was the damn fire that was endangering the neighbor who had the coverage.) If they had tried to put it out the chief would have been fired, the fire fighters terminated and there wouldn’t have been any body left to help fight fire for the majority of the rural residents in their area who do pay the annual fee.

    The remaining 5 departments (city departments) in the county have been going out into the county without a subscription service with the hope that after responding they will bill the home owner and collect. It hasn’t been working. One of these departments even though it is a city department, has to get change out of their outside coke machine that sits on the front of their station just to have money to put fuel in their tank. They get very little help from their own city, let alone NO revenue from the county. Financially these departments will be forced to either go to a subscription based service or draw back into their respective city limits. If that happens, there won’t be any fire protection in three quarters of the county.

    No firefighter wants to see a home go up in flames; but especially for the volunteer departments, the cake sales and fish fries just don’t cut it anymore. One set of gear to out fit a firefighter can exceed $3,000. A fire truck easily costs more than a quarter of a million dollars. How many cakes do you think it will take? And who again is paying for this? The “city” taxpayer.

    The state of TN guarantees that as a tax payer; city or county, you are promised two things. One, garbage pickup will be provided. And two, law enforcement will be provided. Fire service apparently isn’t considered that important.

    What people need to know is the fire problem in Obion County is NOT South Fulton’s problem or any of the other 7 departments. It’s a county problem.

    The other 7 city chiefs and myself have been working with the county for over four years now in trying to convince then to go with a fire tax like most counties in this country operate and we would all gladly get rid of this subscription crap. The county currently wants all cities to go subscription and the county will collect and distribute.

    I as an individual have been catching holy hell this week from all over the country, and wasn’t even the department involved. All I have been trying to do is defend some brother firefighters who weren’t given a choice as to what they could do; defending a program, though not perfect has been a successful program in Union City at least for over 47 years. South Fulton has run theirs for 20. It’s kept the doors open and help provided protection to a majority of rural customers in our Union City area who if it were not for the blessing of our city government would not have any fire protection what so ever because the County still does not want to pass a fire tax for county residents.

    It has been one week. Not one letter to the editor has appeared in any of the papers. I’m not hearing complaints from the county residents. I’m only getting my ass chewed out from one end of the country to the other. I apologize for interrupting your forum. It’s late; I’m mad, and I wanted to vent. Honestly, this has been the most civil forum I have come across. And the only one I have taken part it.

    Hope you all stay safe and please never judge until you have the facts.

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  • oldhead

    I guess if the county taxpayers aren’t worried about it, screw ‘em. Is there any kind of tax or fee for EMS?

  • BH

    How it looks to the public is quite important. Sure, you can ignore that and not include it in your equation. I think the reputation of a fire department within its community is very important. I also think the damage this has done to the reputation of firefighters, particularly volunteers is significant.

    And I will maintain that since the residents of the affected community know going in what kind of system they live in, how could this incident affect THEIR image of the firefighters? All it proved to Obion County residents is that the subscription system is for real- maybe not really great, but we already covered what needs to happen if they want something different.

    The only people thinking ill of them that I can see don’t live anywhere near Obion County, and disparage them from behind the safety of a keyboard and the anonymity of the internet. Ergo, irrelevant.

    • dave statter

      But did it look good to the public locally? It was a local station that did the original story. It was a local family so upset that they had to call the sheriff to the scene. It turns out the local fire chiefs hate this system and want it changed.

      A byproduct of this now is it travels very around the country and around the world and it is bad for firefighters in general.

      Statter

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  • WV Firefighter

    I agree this is a bad situation for the dept and not much can be done to repair their PR damage. But it all could have been avoided if the resident would have just paid the $75.00. And the people saying let them pay when you arrive, well all you liberals out there, this works the same as torturing a terrorist, they will say or do anything to make the suffering stop. Just like the home owners they’ll tell you we’ll pay anything just put it out, then comes time for payment and now your on the front page for taking advantage of a poor fire victim who chose not to pay the fee in advance, and now has just had a devastating fire and you want your money. You still look like bad guys and you’re still out the money to offset operating costs. Oh yeah, thats right everyone thinks it is their right to fire protection but they don’t want to pay for it, whether it be in the form of taxes or fire fees. It is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved but at least maybe now those deadbeats who choose not to pay will get the message that GAS, GRASS, OR ASS THIS RIDE AIN’T FREE! And for those of you reading this not in the fire service whether it be paid or volunteer, that stop complaining about how fast the firetrucks go by, then complain when its you they are coming to help that it took so long to get there, and go get an application and help raise money offset the cost of operating a fire dept.

  • BH

    But did it look good to the public locally?

    And I quote Chief Edmison:

    “Not one letter to the editor has appeared in any of the papers. I’m not hearing complaints from the county residents.”

    A byproduct of this now is it travels very around the country and around the world and it is bad for firefighters in general.

    Only for people without any information on the subject except “firefighters let a house burn down,” maybe. The people who would think less of firefighters are a result of a headline aren’t people who support firefighters anyway- the people you’re just never going to reach.

    Anybody who actually puts some thought into it can see the situation for what it is.

  • Anonymous

    The opinions expressed in the comments seem to vary in what is right and what is wrong. The bottom line here, the Fire Dept. FAILED to carryout the Core Values upon which the Fire and Rescue Service is established. I read where some comments speak “Not being of the Whining Liberals”That is an absolute
    non factual remark. (1) Yes there is is an Annual fee $75.00
    to pay for Fire Service. Since there is no County Fire Tax, whynot was/is the Fee Mandatory through the Local Powers to be?
    (2) The reference of Insurance Payments as fee Payment is not in any way a comparison. “Home Owners Insurance is not Mandatory” If any home Owner so chooses not have Home Owners Insurance, they have to realize their decision is “Accepted Risk” in any event a Terrible Tragedy occurs. This Annual Fee was not Mandatory to ensure Public Safety Service which everyone is entitled to receive. The issue here is plain and simple the Fire Dept Responded but did nothing to provide Basic
    Professional Customer Service. The fact the Fire Dept stood by and did nothing is an absolute Negative Image against what the Fire and Rescue Service stands for. Those who so easily support this type of careless reprehensible non responsive efforts shouldnot, under any measure ever speak nor refer to themselves/their association with any Fire and Rescue organization. These individuals arenot by any measured Standards. Whetehr the Local Fire Dept is in a city/urban Municipality, Volunteer, or Contracted the Basic Body of knowledge in any Fire Service Training is always, “Protect Life and Property”. Check the NFPA Firefighter 1 Standards.
    I really believe what happened here is another issue of Politics over whelming the Citizens needs and expectations.
    Would the Fire Dept have done nothing if there were People Trapped inside? Would the Fire Dept have done nothing if through all the emotions and stress this man suffered an unforseen Cardiac/Stroke Emergency right there on the scene?
    The Fire Dept has a Professional/Moral Obligation and Duty to Perform in putting out the Fire and help save his Property. I use the Terms Professional and Moral Sparingly with reference to this Tragedy. Bottom Line The FIRE DEPT MUST ALWAYS TREAT
    EVERONE whether fee has been Paid or not, Just the SAME WAY
    AS They would EXPECT/WANT Their FAMILY to BE TREATED in any Emergency Crisis Scenario.

    Thank You

  • GWWEMT

    There are a few local departments here that do a subscription service, the way it works here if they don’t pay the fire is still put out, but the money is collected by a lien put on that person’s house to cover the suppression activities and the water used when that person chooses not to pay.