We have almost 60 comments since yesterday on the South Fulton, Tennessee story where the fire department would not put out the house fire because the homeowner hadn’t paid his subscription. The Fire Critic, Rhett Fleitz, is among those who wrote in because I dared to criticize his statement that “Everything else operated as it should” except for the homeowner not paying his bill.
Tonight at 9:00 EDT I will debate this issue with Rhett on his Firefighter Netcast Internet radio show. I still predict that before it is over Rhett will admit that was a poor choice of words and he was wrong. But we shall see. I am guessing the only way Rhett will let you hear the debate is if you pay a subscription fee up front.
To kind of summarize where we are on this debate, here is a recent comment from STATter911.com reader known as Joseph Schmoe who defends the South Fulton FD. Below that is my response. Join us tonight at 9:
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.
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.