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Another chief providing subscription service in Obion County, TN writes to STATter911.com. Read the detailed remarks from Chief Kelly Edmison, Union City FD.

Listen to audio from controversial fire

Previous coverage of the issue from STATter911.com can be found here, here and here

The following comment was received overnight from Chief Kelly Edmison of Tennessee’s Union City Fire Department. Union City is one of three departments to provide subscription fire service to Obion County. Chief Edmison has more information on the issue in a column on the department’s website titled Firefighters turn their backs? … Not so…The Truth about Subscription Fire Service in Obion County TN:

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.   

Chief Kelly Edmison on the left with firefighters from Union City, TN. From department website.

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.    

  

Comments - Add Yours

  • http://firecritic.com Fire Critic

    Chief,

    Thanks for sharing. There are plenty of us out here who have understood the situation and have not faulted the firefighters. We have instead focused our blame at the system and the officials in Obion County.

    Dave,

    This is embarrassing isn’t it. A Chief uses your blog to explain what is going on and you have blamed the fire department from day one.

    Will we hear some more back pedaling…beep beep beep.

  • John in MD

    Thank you, Chief Edmison and Chief Reavis for your responses to this Charlie Foxtrot.
    I know I’m going against the grain on the voiced opinion here, but I will not demonize the fire department’s “lack of action”. This is something we in the north east are not familiar with and therefore have a difficult time digesting. It took me a while to accept the idea the first time I heard of subscription departments in the south west.
    This is not a new policy. I don’t agree with it, but this is the local culture. While I do feel badly for the Cranick’s losing their home, Mr. Cranick made a comment in his interview with CNN that makes me believe he was hedging his bets; He was asked if he ever knew of a situation where the fee had been waived. He said “Yes.” Three years prior his son had a fire. The fire was out when the fire department arrived and the chief at the time said they could pay the fee the next day. How does one go through that and “forget” to pay? I for one would be first in line to pay every year!
    I can only hope that this situation will propagate a positive change in the current system. The county residents need to step up and make their desires known.
    I am growing weary of the knee-jerk vilification of the fire department for having to operate within their constraints by those unfamiliar with the local situation. That doesn’t mean I agree or like said policies and I commend the chiefs for trying to make a difference.

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  • Clark de Bear

    Good morning Chief.

    I read your statment and went and read the statement on your department’s website. And while I apprecuate your attempt to report the “truth”, after rading your comments I find myself confused on a couple of things.

    You say your department “wasn’t the department involved”. But in repsonse to Mrs. Cranick’s original call for service, wasn’t your department along with South Fulton and another department dispatched to the Cranick’s property? I know, I khow, all units were recalled and the response was cancelled by the South Fulton chief (I won’t repeat my previous statements on this matter).

    Also, chief, in your written statement, you say “we would have put it out.” But, Chief, when the flames on the Cranick’s property spread to their neighbor’s property (who just happened to have paid the subscription fee), were the three departments not dispatched to the neighbors property. Did they not respond and upon arrival on-scene, did they not tend to the flames on the Cranick’s neighbor’s property and ignore the flames on the Cranick’s property?

    Please, Chief, clear this up for me.

    One last thing: are your “fully paid” firefighters union members?

  • BCM

    The Union City Fire Chief’s comments are quite interesting. He says that “With the exception of a life endanger; if you don’t pay; they don’t come.” My question through all of this is how do you know whether or not there is “life endanger” until you respond? We all have had incidents where the dispatch doesn’t match the scene. “Minor injuries MVA” when it turns out to be a cardiac arrest, “fire alarm activation” when it turns out to be fully involved etc. In my opinion, any fire is a life endangering situation, and you certainly can’t know until you actually get there!

  • Steve

    Chief Edmison appears to be a class act; I’m pleased he took the time to weigh-in. To the degree we can, we should support the efforts he is making in his community. Best Wishes for success to the departments running in Obion County.

  • http://firehousezen.com Mick Mayers

    Chief Edmison,

    You beat me to posting this morning and took the words out of my mouth. Just like every other emotional story that seems to get out there anymore, I believe there is more to the story. But I don’t believe it’s so much the “legitimate” media. I think that anymore, it’s the warp-speed rantings of people who only have a fraction of the facts. In an effort to scoop everyone else, the problem in legitimate media is giving many of these stories headline status without verification of the entire story.

    I do believe that you are painted into a corner with funding, as are many fire departments in our nation right now. While I am not convinced that a subscription service is a good idea for all of the reasons you pointed out, I also understand that especially with the “uprising” against taxes and any government involvement, there are vocal citizens in many communities who would just as soon de-fund fire service, as has been reported by my colleague Dave Statter here.

    I don’t know that there is a good solution, but as always, leaders in the fire service need to evaluate the community and determine the best method of providing emergency service to the citizens. Our problem comes in the form of uneducated politicians on both sides of the aisle, who in an effort to portray themselves as hard on taxes, or a friend of labor, or whatever sound-bite they are trying to cover, not being enlightened enough to consider the entire story and to determine what is truly best for the people they serve.

    I admire your decision to state your piece on here and I can’t say that I would want to be in your shoes right now. It sounds like no matter which direction you could possibly go, you have emotional people making accusations that really, don’t have a dog in this fight. Only your community knows what’s best for your community. I would try to get out of the subscription business if for any reason, it doesn’t sound like it’s helping your situation any. But remember, there are other alternatives. Good luck and if I can be of any help, let me know.

  • Mark Gatzke

    “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.”

    Really? I find it very hard to believe that anyone would go that far over $75 or to punish so many people just to make their precious point. If money really does trump humanity, the county’s problems go well beyond anything this discussion can rectify.

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

    Chief Edmison,
    Thank you for presenting your position on this emotionally charged issue. I agree with and support your position.

    What most people fail to realize is that the attitude towards government, including the fire service, is changing. The concept of “Americas Heroes” is one that is rapidly fading along with municipal revenues. Today, the public demands more transparency and accountability with their tax dollars than ever before.

    As a resident of Hometown, I demand that the city government looks out for my interests and those of my fellow Hometown neighbors. I do not want to subsidize protection for any neighboring agency, especially one that makes NO effort to provide fire protection service for their citizens.

    The Hometown Fire Dept, as well as the agency that I work for, does have mutual aid agreements with neighboring agencies. The difference is that these agreements are reciprocal! The neighboring agencies can provide assistance to Hometown if needed.

    Obion County brings NOTHING to the table!!! Their solution is to place the burden of providing protection onto the cities and the optional funding of it onto the onto the residents.

    Somehow, the uproar is misdirected toward the South Fulton Fire Dept. instead of toward the homeowner who opted not to participate in the program or the County Supervisors/Directors who opted not to provide service to their citizens.

    If this sounds crass, get used to it. The “hero” days of firefighting are coming to a close. The pendulum is swinging toward a more pragmatic view of the fire service, one that views fire protection as just another revenue consuming service that local government is required to provide.

    If you don’t believe me, attend a ICMA conference sometime. You might be a little stunned.

    Thanks again Chief for sharing your perspective. Hopefully this incident might force some positive change in the way Obion County does business.

  • The Ole Medic

    Mark,

    I use to work in a small town, and I can guarantee you that is exactly what would happen. They would have violated a direct order from the city manager. In addition to being fired, they might even be taken to court to have to pay for the cost of the response.

    Think about the Connie Xinos tape from earlier. If he was willing to fire a fireman a month to get the union to agree to wage cuts, do you think as a City Manager he would do anything less than fire everyone associated?

  • mofiretech1

    Thank you Chief Edmison for stating the situation facing the firefighters in your county.

    For those who don’t understand — if a person, business, city, fire district or family did not pay the premium on their life, health, medical, auto, liability or fire insurance would they expect a death benefit payment, a life saving operation, a replacement vehicle or a new building? Would they expect the insurance company to accept a late payment and reimburse them after the loss? Would they expect other insurance companies to volunteer to cover their loss when their former company refused because they were not insured?

    If employees of one of the insurance companies volunteered to pay the uninsured loss would those employees still be employed?

    Those are sometimes referred to as redundant questions because we all know the answers – No, No, No, No and No.

    Now what could fireservice do in a situation like this? Well, our fire district borders an area that is not in a city or a fire district. Some businesses and residences in the area contract with a career municipal department and we will respond under mutual aid when that agency calls. All others in that area have been advised that we, and the other surrounding fire agencies, will respond and take action to affect a rescue only if persons are reported at risk. We will also respond to determine the conditions when the situation is not clear.

    But we will take action only if life is at risk. Fire agencies will also protect exposures in a neighboring city or fire district or under contract. If the businesses and residents in the unprotected area want fire protection they can contract, vote to join a fire district or vote to be annexed by a city.

    And this is not a city/fire district, county/rural or volunteer/career situation — it is one that involves issues such as is it legal for the firefighters to respond, are they insured if they exceed their authority, if they suffer a disabling injury who sill cover them and what is their obligation to the taxpayers in their agency’s jurisdiction. If they can’t respond in a timely manner to an emergency in their jurisdiction, and are not on legally required training or mutual aid, who will defend them in court from the law suit to recover excess damages?

    It appears that Chief Edmison’s County officials need to address this situation — not the fireservice.

  • John in Indiana

    Sounds to me like the county fire departments need to get together and find some canidates to run and change the rules. It will be a little risky, but a fair tax across the board is what needs to happen. Change the suits behind the table at the county and you can solve a lot of problems. I don’t think any of these fire departments will have any trouble getting citizens on board. You just have to get the message out. It’s time for a change in Obion County!

  • Kelly Edmison

    Thank you for your comments.

    The fire call was in South Fulton’s district. Rives Fire Department and Union City Fire Department were dispatched as Auto Aid. Which in this situation means the next two closest departments are sending tankers. Sometimes Engine Companies. Before we got off the apron, South Fulton cancelled the response. We don’t have the authority nor want it to proceed into another departments area. Especially if they’re not going. So no. Rives department nor Union City ever responded.

    Would the Chief of South Fulton been fired? South Fulton has what they call a “Grace Period.” As i understand it, it is a time frame prior to the deadline; (of course one can sign up at any time, just not during a fire)that they give to make sure they have everyone in the system that should be there. 1 to 2 weeks prior to this incident the Chief was written up for actually putting a house out that did not have a subscription. His feeling was that this was what part of what the “Grace period” was for. So you tell me what they would have done. Wrong? I think so.

    As I have tried to say, to the rest of the country I’m sure it’s unheard of not having a fire tax for county residents. We all want it. At this time the county won’t do that. We (the chiefs) are looking at a county wide subscription not as a solution; but as a stepping stone to get to that goal.

    I have been told this past week that I have no Christian up bringing. I think I remember something to the fact to “Render therefore to Cesar the things which are Cesar’s.” life sometimes dictates we have to do what we have to do. Doesn’t mean I have to like it. At this point in our journey we can spend our time twiddling our thumbs worrying about the minority of residents who don’t want the coverage or think it is owed to them (Which in THIS case, it isn’t) Or we can march ahead and continue to take care of the majority who understand the problem and who are willing to support us. We’ll get through this. God does work in mysterious ways. Eyes are now opened.

  • doobis

    This whole story is being brought to so much light simply because of national politics and the upcoming elections, for this is not the first time I have heard of similar situations in other parts of the county.

    At the core of all this national media is the debate in how we are going to run the county and how we are going to pay for services. Libertarian, conservative, moderate, liberal, socialist/communist . . . all sides are taking this incident and using it to confirm their own ideological beliefs. No one in national media really cares about the county or the home that was burned, they are using them to prop up their own arguments and it is hypocritical! One side says that you are responsible for your actions or inactions to pay for the services (you have the choice and increased freedom) and as a free loader you can’t expect the community to cover your decisions – you took the risk. The other side says, regardless of financial and operational reality, the FDs were wrong to not to respond.

    (You can tell a lot of people’s political persuasions by the opinions they make on TV or on this website.)

    In addition, their is a huge debate raging about the pay and benefits of FFs. Their is a large population of people that feel FFs are themselves free loaders and sit on their asses all day long collecting wonderful pensions at the expense of the tax payers, I think a lot is simply disgruntled people wishing they were in a great fire/ems career. When any FD doesn’t respond to a fire call, it gives those people more argument for their cause (in their minds) – regardless of fact.

    Leave the issue of these FDs and the county to themselves. They are grown adults living, working, and running that community. They don’t need arrogant elites telling them from their part of the county how things are and should be done. If people are so concerned give them financial support instead of ranting and raving and being a hypocrite!

  • Kelly Edmison

    There were a couple of other questions. No, we are not union. life endangerment is based on the dispatch.
    Yes, South Fulton did respond but only after they were then dispatched to the neighbors property. I do not believe they at that time put any water on the Cranick home. they wanted to; they asked to; but were not allowed.

    Also, my statement that if the fire were in our district that we would have handled it somewhat differently should be no negative reflection on South Fulton Fire Department. (I’ve only got “one of my wrists in cuffs at this time.”) :)

    I have a question: Does anyone on here know how to remove a “voodoo curse”? I’ve had 2 placed on me this week.

    Seriously, it has finally slowed up.(phones, emails, letters.) I had to go by the post office this morning to retrieve something that need my signature. I told them if it was “ticking” to please return. Yes, Monday and Tuesday I sort of felt like a “basket case.” But then reminded myself that “Moses was in that same situation once.”

    I’m actually a “yankee” Il to KY to TN. Since I’m here, “Yall take care, hear!”

  • FF/EMT Bryant

    Sir, can you extrapolate on a question I have?
    If the engine company is due for manpower and such, and the residence has not paid the “subscription” do they respond to those sorts of calls?

  • http://www.firefighternetcast.com John Mitchell

    Do I hear an echo? I said the very same thing this Chief said on the Netcast show this week. The only reason there is no fire coverage in the unincorporated areas Obion County is that the people there elect not to pay for it- either by a county-wide tax or a subscription system. The citizens have been offered and some have decline this service. No tickee- no laundry.

    Secondly, with the vast amount of resources you have, maybe you can run down the sources and confirm the following information:

    Mr. Cranick claims he “forgot” to pay. The fire department says it has records he was reminded repeatedly. Even after they chased him down, he “forgot” to pay. Someone is lying, who is it?

    Mr. Cranick started the initial fire by illegally burning trash on a windy day. Surprisingly, the fire spread to his “dwelling”. Any charges made on that?

    Mr. Cranick and his family have a fund set up so that people can donate in order to offset the costs of the tragedy. His insurance company has said they will pay in full. Mr. Cranick says he didn’t have enough insurance.

    Seems like Mr. Cranick made three huge mistakes. Let me rush out and toss him a quarter and thank him for plunging my fire service into a cesspool of crap.

    Let’ keep the facts coming, media…..

    • dave statter

      Come on John, you’re as bad as that little guy you run around with. The homeowner isn’t the story. You are focusing on a symptom and not the problem. Step back and look at the big picture.

      The chiefs around Obion County agree with me, the system is broke. That’s the problem. They want it changed. If Mr. Cranick’s failure to pay $75 changes this archaic way to provide fire protection than some good has come out of this mess.

      There will always be Mr. Cranicks in a system like this. And not putting out the fire will always make firefighters look bad.

      The next one may be much worse. How about a fire where someone is really destitute and doesn’t have the money to pay? How about a fire department that screws up its bill collections and the list is wrong? How many of you can say your department is meticulous with its paperwork and never makes a mistake?

      You are literally playing with fire in a system like this.

      It is heartening to have a better understand from Chief Edmison and Chief Reavis how hard they have worked to change this.

      What I haven’t heard is the role of South Fulton FD in those efforts. Imagine how much better it would have looked for the fire service if the South Fulton chief immediately talked to the reporter and said “We hate this system too. It puts firefighters in a horrible position. We have been trying to fix it, but we need the public’s help”.

      Personally I (and many others) would have still disagreed with their actions, but it would have been crystal clear where the firefighters stood.

      You are better than this John. Don’t blame the little guy. As I have said before, firefighters are supposed to be there to help us all through some of the worst moments of our lives. They shouldn’t be asking if your bill is paid first.

      Why don’t we stop fire protection for anyone who is delinquent on their taxes?

      We have always heard one reason that people hold firefighters in higher esteem than cops is because the firefighters are always there to help you when they arrive (not a knock on police, but we know not everybody is happy to see the cops). You jeopardize this place in the mind of the public when you start judging who gets your service by who has paid their bills.

      If you mess this up too much firefighters are going to have a tough time getting dates (now I have your attention!).

      Statter

  • Joe Fire

    I have heard a lot about the union, being a former union brother just what the heck does it matter if they are or are not union? I have watched union departments refuse to do mutual aid with departments who are not union. I bet if a union brother said hey i do not have the money to pay dues but still want to be a part of the union all you ggod union people would call him a scab for not joining, and would take all your toys and go home.
    We are not entitled to anything although so many of think so. I sure as heck would not want my taxes paying to protect those who have a choice to pay $75.00 a year for fire protection damm where do i sign up because i pay my fire district a lot more than that. The guy should be charged with arson for being stupid and burning his house down and insurance should not pay him.

  • Kelly Edmison

    FF/EMT Bryan: not sure I am understanding your question.

    Yes, Mr. Cranick claims he forgot. Tonight’s Union City Messenger newspaper has quoted both he and his wife stating that yes they got the original notice of the fee being due. Stuck the letter away and forgot. she also says that yes she did get a phone call from the fire department reminding them again that they hadn’t paid. It has also been told to me from SFFD sources that this is the 2nd or 3rd fire he or his family has had in the last five years or so. Mr. Cranick is retired from the local Goodyear & Tire Rubber Company here in Union City and now is a part-time farmer.

    John,

    I do not now of any charges at this time regarding the burning of his trash. I did hear him say on TV that from the time they started the fire in the two burn barrels; then went to the grass; then to the garage; and then it reached and burned the house. According to Mr. Cranick, it took 2 hours from the barrels to the house.

    They also stated in tonights paper that they did not have enough insurance on the home and it won’t cover all the loss.

  • no.1 statter fan in va

    Just thought of something else. Did the fire department involved with the call, were they ever the receipent of a Fire Act Grant from the federal government? If so, and the awarded equipment was not used deliberatly to answer an emergency call, could that be used againest them? Also, something else. In my county of residence, there is no organized fire tax, nor any county fire department. Each community throughout the ages, organized their own protection, which later also evolved into rescue squad/ambulance service as well. Interesting enough, there are two bonafide towns in the county as well that have county property as first due. Each community fire department operates off of donations and fund raisers. In other words, the bill for fire protection and ems/rescue is footed basically by each individual community. Things are backwoods as hell. But I have never, ever, heard of any body refusing to go to the aid of a neighboring department under any circumstances in this county, even though the community that they are responding to help did not in any way pay for the aiding department’s budget. It all works out in the end. I still can’t believe this happened. Again, put the fire out, the property owner and the authroities deal with the money at the conclusion of the incident or the property owner could get a ride to jail. SIgned no.1 statter fan in virginia

  • Clark de Bear

    Dave, I’m blue in the face, so I won’t continue to go on and on about this mess.

    But I just noticed in your most recent comment something you said that I think you didn’t mean to say…

    You said in response to John Mitchell, “Don’t blame the little guy.” If I’m correct, John is agreeing with Rhett. No?
    :-)

    • dave statter

      You’re right. Wrong little guy.

      Statter

  • http://www.firefighternetcast.com John Mitchell

    Dave, I see the big picture.

    But according to the good chief who extoled “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,” there is alot that needs to be fixed with how this was reported.

    He calls it a storm. I call it a circus.

    The news media used to get the whole story and put it out there. Now it seems true journalism increasingly takes a back seat, focusing on the angle that will attract readers, viewers, and spenders.

    Chief Edmison said it clearly: “…no one has reported the truth about the situation yet.”

    C’mon, my friend. Because I focus on an area not reported doesn’t mean I disagree with anything you have said. You know better than to use the “either/or” approach when it should be the “as well as” approach.

    Yes, the system sucks.
    Yes, the firefighters were put in a bad position.
    Yes, there has to be a better way.
    Yes, it needs to be fixed yesterday.

    Duh.

    What’s MISSING here is the something the media failed to cover. It would “deflavor” the moment if the media poined out that the ‘poor victim’ ALSO needs to take partial ownership of this story.

    Maybe that’s why we still haven’t been able to confirm that he was hounded down and refused to pay (not ‘forgot’ – REFUSED) The story would lose flavor.

    Maybe that’s why we still don’t know what possessed this man to set fire to trash on a windy day- an illegal fire that eventually torched his neighbor’s property. The story would lose flavor.

    Nope. These kinds of questions would squelch the spectacle.

    Instead, right now as I’m writing this, he continues to get a free ride, propped up in a folding chair like every other night in front of what’s left of his “dwelling”, fed softball questions in front of the dazzling spectacle of media lights, cameras, and satellite trucks.

    If the media wants to ignore the rest of the story, so be it. But they are going to have to accept the fact that I, along with Chief Edmison, have no problem calling them on stopping short of true journalism.

    We would rather they report what really happened, THE WHOLE STORY, and not just the parts that just sell ads, commercials, and emotions.

    Now let’s get back to the circus, already in progress……

    • dave statter

      John you are missing point. No matter how right you are or think you are, there is nothing to gain here by pointing fingers at the victim. Absolutely nothing. From a public relations standpoint it’s a negative that makes firefighters look bad. It’s a no brainer that would undermine you in the eyes of the public. Get past it.

      The media from the start has made it clear this guy did not pay his fee. That was in the original story and every story since. What do you want them to do, go down there and put a scarlet letter on him?

      I have absolutely no problem criticizing the news media. But all I see in this case is people using the media or the homeowner as an excuse for not dealing with the problem.

      Okay, so we report in each story right at the top that some homeowner is an awful man, he didn’t pay his tax, he kicks his dog and farts in public. What does that prove? Where does that leave you? If you really believe the homeowner and the news media are the problems here I am honestly dissapointed in you.

      I don’t care if the homeowner is Jack the Ripper. It doesn’t matter how much you highlight all his ills, the fact remains firefighters and a fire truck showed up and watched the home burn. That is sad for firefighters and the public.

      That’s the story. Sorry. There is no other story. The rest is how you deal with it.

      Your a great guy John, but I wouldn’t want you advising me if I were a fire chief dealing with this problem. Both Chief Reavis and Chief Edmison seem to have the right idea on how to present their case. Don’t make the victim your target. Highlight your efforts to get this changed. End of story.

      Statter

  • Tim Blair

    U let a famile lose there house for 75.00

  • Clark de Bear

    Well, I tried to move on from this story, but alas it keeps sucking me back in…

    Mr. Mitchell, I cannot and will not speak for Dave here, only for myself. That said, I wish to respond to your most recent post.

    Here goes…

    Chief Edmison says his department wasn’t involved, but that isn’t – as you put it – the whole story. The Chief’s department alonf with another department were dispatched in response to the original request for service. They were cancelled prior to responding by the South Fulton fire chief. I do not know whether or not Chief Edmison’s department was re-dispatched with South Fulton when they were dispatched to the neighbor who had paid the extortion fee, I mean, “subscription fee”. Chief Edmison, were you?

    John, if I may call you John, what part of the story are you focusing on that hasn’t been reported? You seem to be focusing on the homeowner who failed to pay the $75 and pointing your virtual finger at him. I don’t think there has been a single media outlet that hasn’t reported the fact that Mr. Cranick failed to do so.

    I have not seen nor heard a single media outlet, individual or comment on this site and others that has claimed Mr. Cranick is blameless. I certainly don’t think Mr. Cranick is without some blame.

    Sure, he could’ve paid the extortion money – pardon me, “subscription fee” – and sure he could’ve avoided burning trash in a burn barrel. But Mr. Cranick didn’t pay (for whatever reason) and he ignite a fire that for one reason or another became uncontrolled. Controlled burns and carelessness with fire happens many times a day in the United States. That is in part why fire departments exisit.

    You see, John, you’re missing the point here. Allow me to break it down for you…
    A fire started. A request for service was placed with 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 dispatcher dispatched the appropriate response. The Officer In Charge cancelled the response. The fire went unchecked. Repeated requests for service were denied. The fire continued to unchecked and eventually spread to the property of a person who paid the protection money/subscription fee. The fire department(s) responded to the subscriber’s property, put water on the subscriber’s burning vegetation all the while ignoring the Cranick’s burning structures. When they were satisfied the subscriber’s vegetation was extinguished the fire department(s) left and returned to their station(s). THAT is the story.

    In a nutshell a fire department, or departments, arrived at a burning home and refused to assist the property owners and allowed multiple structures to burn to the ground.

    Whatever the reason this 18th century way of fire “fighting” is still practiced in Obion County, Tennessee is to the Cranick’s – and to me – irrelevant. It isn’t a broken system, it is an outdated and archaic system; it is a short-sighted system and a system that has CLEARLY not been completely and thoroughly thought out.

    Is Mr Cranick behind in paying his federal taxes? If not, I believe (and am getting definitive word) that Mr Cranick and other federal tax payers in the unincorporated portions of Obion County, Tennessee HAVE INDEED paid monies towards the euipping and operations of the South Fulton Fire Department. I’ll get back to you ASAP on this.

    In closing, John, if I missed your point, please, please explain to me “the truth”. Please explain to me the “area not reported” that you’ve chosen to “focus” on.

    Oh, John, am I right in assuming tickets to the “circus” are $75 a piece?

  • Steve

    Why do you refer to this as “extortion”? If it were a mandatory fee, you would call it a tax. Because it is optional, it somehow becomes “extortion”? I don’t get that.

    Don’t get me wrong…I don’t agree with this subscription method at all, and neither does Chief Edmison, but I see no reason to throw such negative terms around. The fact of the matter is that the (I assume) elected government of the County enacted a municipal policy which did not meet any strong objection from voters. I wish it hadn’t come to this to get people to wake up and talk about it, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t live there, and we don’t get a vote in their elections.

    Chief Edmison also points out that the fire chiefs would have been disciplined if they’d responded. Remember too that the fire chiefs don’t own their apparatus. The respective city does. If someone gives me use of a vehicle (or any other property) with specific instructions on how and when I can use it, if I get up and take it somewhere, I have now driven off with their property without permission.

    Something has been touched on in some of the discussions on other boards that I’d like to directly ask Chief Edmison about. If the department had ignored the orders from the city not to respond, and a firefighter had been injured or property damaged, would the city’s insurance/workman’s compensation have covered the incident?

    We are all taught about personal safety above all else. Does this also not extend to ensuring our actions don’t cause unnecessary financial harm to our families?

    Let me offer up something that happened to me a few years ago, as I wonder how some of those critical of the fire departments in Obion County would see it. I spent a number of years involved in wilderness and high angle Search & Rescue overseas in a desert area with many slot canyons, cliffs and subject to flash flooding. The SAR teams were 100% volunteer, and operated under the auspices of the national police auxiliary. One year, budget-related decisions within the police department led to our no longer being covered at all by insurance in the event we were injured or killed. Each and every volunteer SAR team commander in the country ordered a mandatory stand-down for their unit until it was restored. For at least 4 weeks, none of the SAR teams responded. Did I like it? No. Absolutely not. Were there calls for help in that time? Yes. We did as much as we could to help over the phone, but did not go out. Thank goodness nobody died, but our commanders firmly believed that our personal safety came first, and that we were to take calculated and not reckless risks.

  • no.1 statter fan in virginia

    Hey Bear, that is what I am talking about. If they got federal funds from one of those AFG grants they ought to let’em have it with both barrels for not using the awarded monies for what they were intended for.

  • Clark de Bear

    @Steve: Here’s the difference: with a tax you, the property owner, get fire protection. With this ‘subscription’ method, you don’t unless you pay it. As has been offered here before by others, what happens if you have paid and the record is simply overlooked? How long does it take to check to see if a property owner has paid, and how long is the delay in the response while the record is checked? It becomes extortion money when you tell someone you either pay it or else.

    As for your SAR scenario, it’s comparing apples and oranges. Your SAR unit wasn’t covered by insurance and went out of service. The South Fulton FD simply refused to provide the service. For that matter, so did the two mutual aid companies. When a department is unable to respond to a call, be it because they’re otherwise committed or unable to get personnel, a cover/mutal aid department is assigned in their place. Apparently, if a department simply refuses to respond, this is not the case. As for personal safety, this business is a dangerous one. Whether your fighting a structure fire of a resident who paid $75 or didn’t pay, the level of danger remains consistant.

    And I don’t think South Fulton FD places themselves in a lot of danger ‘fighting’ fires anyway, as exampled here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb4Hg1-0xrA&p=EB610C1170F68A93&playnext=1&index=8

    @No. 1 Statter Fan: I’ve got some feelers out to some folks and I expect to have a rather complete answer to this grant issue on Monday or Tuesday. I agree, if they received a single penny someone should hang for not providing the service.

  • Kelly Edmison

    Union City was not re-dispatched to the neighbors fire.

    Workman’s Comp question: I would think that if I gave an order and it was followed out that workman’s comp would have to pay. But, I’m not a lawyer.

    I have seen several questions regarding AFG Grants or grants in general. I am assuming the thought process is that Mr. Cranick paid federal taxes so in turn he should have rights to the fire equipment being used to assist in his fire. My thought is first, the departments when writing their grants state that they cover a portion of the county through a subscription service to help those “who are members.” Again don’t know the legal. However using that analogy, I pose the hypothetical question: I pay federal taxes also. Let’s say a state out west takes federal monies and builds a new 4 lane highway and then erects toll booths on that highway to bring in state tax dollars. Because I paid federal dollars that helped fund that project, should I then even from TN, be exempt from having to pay toll?

    The county commission will be voting on whether to go county wide with the subscription program on Monday the 18th.

    Though I don’t favor the subscription service, If we are to have it, I much prefer this new concept in allowing the county to collect the fees and redistribute it to the individual cities.

    LIABILITY! If we(Union City) are not collecting the money; not taking the information, entering the data that 911 will have access to, it then makes for a pretty simple court case as to who is liable if we don’t go to a house fire when we should have.

    the system that our department currently uses is basically a web site data base that runs in the background for 911. they can check a subscriber by name, road name, address etc. If the county takes this on, a new site will be made that includes information for all departments. e as 911 will have “view” rights only. The county will be the only ones who can change or add information. The county will also be collecting 5% on monies collected from each departments district. Union City currently brings in around $110,000 to $125,000 a year on average. That 5% will cost us less than what we can administer our program for. Besides, as I talked about liability, They (the county) are also getting paid to do this.

    If the county fails to put in a subscribers info and we don’t go,…county has bought a house. If the information is there and 911 for some reason misreads and we don’t go,…911 is suspect. As I have repeatedly said, I want the county to pass a county fire tax for its county residents and let us throw this subscription thing out the window. But, If I’m going to have to operate a program a little longer, then I embrace this transfer of liability. Again, not a lawyer, but if I were sitting as a juror…

    Someone pondered the question if Mr. Cranick shared any blame. I would say his grandson did for starting a fire on an extremely windy day. Mr. Cranick by either accidentally or purposely failed to pay his fee. Without that, the “system” (be it archaic) will not work. I don’t pay my water and they shut it off,…I have no one to blame other than myself regardless of my intent.

  • Kelly Edmison

    I need to share 2 emails with you. They are both from Chief Russell Schwan. He is the Chief of Martin Fire Department. (City Department) located in Weakley County, Tn They are boardered our our east and they are the other county in TN that has no county department.

    His first email was sent to us yesterday:

    “I was awaken this morning with a burden that has been put on me. That burden is one of the blown out accusations toward the SF firemen in Obion County.

    I am literally disgusted that people would get on a forum and literally insult, threaten, and believe false accusations on fellow firefighters.

    If we are a so called BROTHERHOOD, it should not be tolerated. I stand not in judgement of these fellow men and women, because I sit here 11 miles away and a $100 subscription fee away of having that same situation happen in my own Weakley County and department.

    These same men and women firefighters everyone has been bashing, insulting and threatening are the same one’s that have got up at 1 am to go and put fires out inside the city of South Fulton before and will continue to do so after all the National News has went on to other stories. Everyone has gotten on these forums and asked this and that, and if they knew God they wouldn’t have let this happen. Well the Bible also says if you “love not your brother, than you love not the Son of God”

    I am asking for everyone that will read this and can join me I will be standing at the Weakley/Obion county line on Highway 45 North between Martin and South Fulton Tennessee at 4 pm on Saturday October 9, 2010 to reach my hand across the county line to a fellow BROTHER in the fire service whether he or she is on the SFFD or one in Obion County. I will stand not in judgement, but to show support of the Brotherhood.

    The news has put some bad PR out there, lets at least show them we are a much prouder people than they tend to believe.

    I am hoping as a member of that Brotherhood that I am not standing out their alone.

    Thanks and GOD Bless,

    Now this morning, I just received this:

    “Fellow firefighters,

    Due to the safety of my Family and others that might have showed up I will not be at the Obion/Weakley County line today at 4 pm

    It is apparent that this is a hot issue but due to death threats, and other bodily harm to firemen and their families it is not worth risking.

    I appreciate everyones POSITIVE response to the event but unfortunately it will not happen.

    Thanks and God Bless,”

    I’ll keep everyone posted.

  • Wesley

    As a volunteer fire chief in upper East Tennessee I can relate to both sides of this situation. Here is my viewpoint on the Obion County incident. As a fire chief I took an oath to protect lives and property. How can a fire chief stand back or even his ranking officers and let someones property burn down for $75.00. Its my understanding that the fire department that responded is a volunteer unit of the town and if they didn’t follow orders then they would be terminated. If thats the case,then let the town terminate the chief and its members who are VOLUNTEERS and see if they then have a town fire department. Orders or no orders I could not stand back and let this happen and its sad to see that we had people who did. I blame the blunt of the problem on the county for not stepping up to the plate and funding fire protection in that county. Our fire department is funded at $7,000.00 a year which is just a drop in the bucket but at least were getting a little of the pie.

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  • Clark de Bear

    Chief Edmison,
    It is not my intention to blame the South Fulton FD or the South Fulton chief for the subscription system currently in place. Not completely anyway.

    Nor do I intend to blame you or the Union City Fire Department for the subscription system you follow. In press conference that you called in response to the Cranick tragedy (and that’s what it is), you stated you took an oath when you were appointed fire chief of the UCFD. Can you share what the wording of the oath is, please?

    As for your toll analogy, it is, again comparing apples and oranges. As I’ve been able to gather, federal highway grants are provided for the contruction (including replacement and re-paving) of interstate and U.S. Routes. The monies derived from the feds is not for the on-going maintenance of the said thoroughfares. Any tolls derived from a turnpike (paid access roadway) are used for those purposes not covered by the grant allocations.

    The various federal agencies that provide grants to fire departments, EMS departments and various first responder organizations have a wide, WIDE variety of guidelines and stipulations placed on the application and allocations of said funds. Anyone who has ever attempted to figure out a grant application quickly begins to realize why their are people who do nothing but grant writing. FEMA has different criteria and stipulations than the USDA Rural Development, and so on and so forth. I am certain it would take a devoted group of people and some serious funding to research and determine what grant monies were recieved and what was stated on the application for those grants.

    Again, Chief, I’m not bashing any firefighter for the system. I bash the response, or lack thereof.

    As far as Chief Martin’s letter, I am sorry he or anyone else has been threatened with bodily harm. This is uncalled for. But he states (as many have)_that the press has “put out bad PR). No. No the media hasn’t. The press simply reported a story. I’d disagree with Dave when he says this is a story of “man bites dog”, and say this is a story of “man bites, kicks and mauls dog, only to ignore its wounds”.

    In the end, hopefully the attention – deserved and undeserved – will create a better system. Your mention of the county voting to make a county-wide subscription service only means, to me, that the likelihood of this poor dog being bitten again is inevitable.

    Chief, I wish you the same things I wish for all the citizens of Obion County, Tennesssee (whether they’ve anted up or not): a safe and happy life.

  • Kelly Edmison

    This is my “second rodeo” to be honest; neither time was I asked to read or swear to an oath. I found that odd. I suppose when I stated that “I took an oath,” that oath basically was between me and God and to give me the power to protect the people that I have been entrusted. And as I said, I don’t like having to deal with things the way they are and yes, I have a choice. That is to do what the city instructs me to do; walk away and wash my hands; or stay and protect those who want the protection and fight for the folks who apparently don’t give a damn. I’ve chosen to stay. Fight for the way I know it needs to be and make a difference. I feel that’s what all 8 of us chiefs are choosing to do.

  • Fyrecapt

    Correct me if I am wrong, but when we respond on structure fires, we consider all structures “occupied” until we get a primary and secondary all clear from interior crews?? Including vacant structures that transients may be sleeping.

    I think most of us are just surprised nobody helped a fellow human being out in their time of need. We are Firefighters and as such we are not the type to sit around and watch someone’s home burn down, no matter what their economic class, gender or race is!

    So is there a subscription for Paramedic service also? You dont pay, you dont get medical help either??

    There are several cities and counties on the west that operate a fee based system, however they still respond and provide service and bill later..

    I understand how your program works, however I would of taken the chance and put the fire out, especially if I was a volunteer! LOL THE CITY MANAGER CAN FIRE ME ALL DAY LONG-ITS A VOLUNTEER POSITION! That kills me…

    By not putting the fire out you run a significant risk of “assuming” no life is in danger, and if the fire grows and eventually damages more properties, someone other than insurance companies will have to pay. Especially if someone filed a lawsuit for negligence.

    Ultimately it is the Counties responsibilty and should take steps to resolve this situation.

    I agree Chief, the county should divert tax money to the FD’s and not the garbage collectors. Maybe its time to become more politically involved and start putting initatives on the ballot to make a positive change in your county.

    Good luck

  • Kelly Edmison

    County EMS is provided by Baptist Hosp; out of Union City. Owned by Baptist out of Memphis. FULTON, KY (Combination dept)sister city of South Fulton, TN state line runs right between them. They have auto aid in city limits. Fulton also runs ambulance service. Serves portions of 3 counties in KY and 2 counties in TN. They run a subscription based EMS city and county both. Member rate and a non-member rate. KY laws prohibit EMS from denying service to anyone in your service area. I started as a vol in Fulton in 1982. Made Chief there in 1990. I left there in 1994. Went as Training Officer to Union City in 1996 and Made Chief in 1998. So,…as you can see, I’m throughly familiar with the extreme S/W Ky and N/W Tn area.

  • Not an AZ Rural/Metro FF

    Counties in Arizona that don’t have a city or publicly taxing fire district to provide service have the option of having a 1 or 2 man Rural/Metro engine company respond. Residents in this situation must pay a subscription fee to Rural/Metro. Rural/Metro will respond and fight the fire of a non-subscriber but they will then bill the homeowner for $20-30,000 in costs AND place a lien on the property until it is paid.

  • Steve

    @Clark – I’m not so sure they’re so different. We were volunteers. Someone was calling for help because they were lost/missing/dehydrated/stuck. We didn’t go because of the personal ramifications that might have ensued from a hypothetical outcome (we get hurt). Yes, it’s a dangerous job, but we wear PPE, carry insurance and train in an attempt to manage the level of risk as best we can.

    As to the terminology…we’re going to have to disagree on that. Others have raised the example of car insurance. That’s not extortion either, but you’re kinda SOL if you find yourself in an accident without it.

    I would hate to be in the position that Chief Edmison and his neighboring departments are in. I think he’s doing a great job in trying to push as much as possible to get rid of the fees. But I think that we shouldn’t be faulting them for trying to do their best amid a system that we can all agree appears rather broken. Perhaps the volunteers should have objected to the system by not volunteering at all until it was fixed, but then who would protect those within the town limits and those outside that the town leaders allow them to help? “Going anyway” would have repercussions both for the Chiefs, as well as perhaps for the firefighters. If they were dismissed, how does that help the town? If the Chief is wrong and the are not insured if they respond on a call that the town prohibits them from responding on (after all, if the laws don’t allow the response, are they on duty?), who pays for their care?

    I’m glad that the majority of us don’t have to be put in that kind of position. I don’t think there’s any way to win until Obion County changes their system.

  • uk-fb-buff

    My 2 cents from California.

    Chief Edmison, thankyou for clearing up the issue. Unfortunately as you seem to see,the fire service as a whole in my opinion now looks like the “Bad Person” because of the City manager.

    Who apparently is not versed in the fact that he could have after the fire seeked “Cost Recovery” from the home owners Insurance Company which would have probably exceeded the
    amount of money for the subscription fee.

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  • Truth-tellin-brother

    The level of "judgmentalism" on this forum is absolutely astounding.
    Some lessons that my grandparents and parents taught me:
    1.  Judge not lest ye be judged.
    2.  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
    3.  Don't criticize someone unless you have walked a mile in their shoes.  I didn't read ANYBODY on here who has faced this situation.  It must be nice to be all smug from your fully-funded fire departments wherever it is.
    4.  If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.
    Those of you who are worried about "making the fire service look bad" ought to start in the houses where the cheating on EMS certification exams, the callous patient care, the deaths due to lousy physical fitness and poor tactics, and the flagrant wasting of money that occurs in so many places.