Is This America?

I talk a lot on this blog about holding public shelters accountable.  Like most of our taxpayer funded services, shelter workers would be my heroes if they just did their jobs.  Anything above and beyond the call of duty – I’d worship them as gods!  Firefighters are another taxpayer funded group who get to be heroes simply by doing their jobs.  I truly do appreciate all of the public services we often take for granted in this country – clean drinking water, education, roads, etc.

Unfortunately for the people of Obion Co, TN, they do not have a taxpayer funded fire department.  Perhaps some people there – the types who are always complaining about paying taxes – think that’s a good thing since it’s one less tax.  The fire department for the city of South Fulton offers service to rural residents in Obion Co for an annual fee of $75.

Gene Cranick’s family lives in Obion Co.  When his grandson was burning trash last week, the fire got out of control.  Mr. Cranick called 911 but was informed he had forgotten to pay his annual $75 fee and as such, wasn’t on “the list”.  Mr. Cranick offered to pay any amount of money required to get the firefighters to come to his home.  Nope.

Eventually the fire spread to his neighbor’s property.  His neighbor had sent in the $75 fee so the South Fulton fire department came and doused the flames that had leapt into the neighbor’s yard.  When they were finished, they stood around, watching the Cranick family home burn to the ground and presumably hearing the 4 pets inside being burned alive.

“They could have been saved if they had put water on it, but they didn’t do it,” Cranick told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

The city of South Fulton stands by the actions of the firefighters:

South Fulton’s mayor said that the fire department can’t let homeowners pay the fee on the spot, because the only people who would pay would be those whose homes are on fire.

Fair point.  Except we’re not talking about something less than a family’s home, all their worldly possessions, and 4 beloved – living, breathing – pets. How could this have happened?

Last month, I did some grocery shopping, packed up my car with the bags and found it wouldn’t start.  I was stranded.  Although I would have liked to have renewed my old AAA membership when it expired several years ago, it just hasn’t worked out financially.  I called them that day and asked if I could renew.  They said sure and asked if I needed service that day.  If so, there would be an extra $40 fee in addition to the membership renewal fee.  That seems fair.  Couldn’t the South Fulton fire department offer something like that?  I mean, we’re talking about a family home with pets inside burning to the ground.  Hullo!  Where is the love?  Is this how Americans treat each other now?

Let’s be clear:  Firefighters were on the scene of the Cranick family home with means to put out the fire and prevent the 4 pets inside from burning to death.  They did nothing.  Over an unpaid $75 fee.

Afterwards, Mr. Cranick’s son was arrested for assaulting the fire chief at the firehouse.

75 thoughts on “Is This America?

  1. This is how the libertarians would have us live. Uh, no thanks, libertarians.

    Some things should just be funded, ya know?

  2. I find it sad that his pets died as a result of his negligence and think that South Fulton should try and offer a solution to those who have not paid the $75 fee and need service. In the end this comes down to that fact that rural living and low taxes means less services which can endanger the public.

  3. This is so sad. The lives of those pets depended on how strictly some people were going to follow the law…’no $$$$, no water’. This at a time that fire fighters and other public servants perform heroic tasks to rescue animals. What was wrong with those individuals that life and death didn’t trump an unpaid bill?!?

  4. And what if an elderly person was trapped inside? Would they have been obligated to put out the fire then? Or is it seventy-five bucks or nothing, no matter what?

    “Sorry about your grandma, kid, but you weren’t on the list.”

    And what if “the list” has an error? What if you did pay, but a clerical error occurs? Will they rebuild your house for you?

    Hard to believe someone thought this was a good idea…

      1. Yeah, it’s called “taxes.”

        You pay a $75 tax to support the fire department. (Actually, probably significantly less.)

        If you don’t pay, you are in arrears on your taxes.

        But they don’t let your house burn to the ground or your pets die.

        I know! Novel thinking! I should PATENT this idea, it’s so original.

    1. Magical people, that’s who.

      Or, maybe – just maybe – normal people who want to volunteer their time to do so. OR, normal people who would be happy to take federal minimum wage 2-weeks out of the year to go around and collect taxes or mail letters or ask for a $6.25/mos fee to cover the annual costs.

      Or, gosh forbid, you could get all neighborly and just have an annual bakesale to collect the monies necessary to pay off the local firefighters.

      At what point do you believe the fire department’s right to get paid supersedes a citizen’s right to live? When just the pets burn to death? Adult? Infant?

      1. Not sure you understand how taxes work.

        See, a government entity could not tax you, unless you live in it. That is why in UNINCORPORATED RURAL AREAS these sorts of taxes are NOT COLLECTED.

        What legal right do you think your leprechauns would have to have required this homeowner to pay your taxes?

        Geez, this homeowner made a mistake, and everyone here is kicking him when he is down.

      2. In my neck of the woods – Sonoma County, California – there’s a county fire department as well as numerous city ones (including, per discussion below, some volunteer ones). All unincorporated areas are therefore covered by a service supported by county taxes.

      3. Erich, somehow, someway unincorporated areas in many parts of the country pay taxes! I KNOW THIS IS SHOCKING NEWS!

        I don’t think the homeowner made a mistake.

        I think the firefighters made a horrible, wrong decision. Their right to get paid does not, in my opinion, supersede my right to live or the right of my pets/family to live.

      4. Erich, I have now come to the conclusion that trying to talk to you is like trying to convince a wall to be a puddle. It’s pretty fruitless and only good for bashing your head against. Thanks for all the wayward logic, fallacious arguments, red herrings, and just plain weird responses, though.

        Because anyone who thought my response was critical of them as a person is WAY beyond reasoning with. Ta-ta!

      1. I live in the county. I pay property taxes that covers such things as fire, garbage collection, police etc, etc.
        I don’t live in TN but can’t imagine that they don’t have property taxes.

  5. One quarter of the respondents in the MSNBC survey thought it was just fine, or “didn’t know,” that firefighters stood around with their thumbs up their asses and watched a family’s home burn to the ground with their pets inside.

    I’m married to a firefighter who is from a family of firefighters.

    No firefighter I have ever known thinks that this is okay.

      1. Under the previous South Fulton fire chief, they did take payment on the spot, or even the next day, if someone had forgotten to pay and needed firefighting services.

        To prevent the obvious risk of free riders, they could institute a higher “on the spot” fee.

        What they shouldn’t do is let people or pets burn to death over.

      2. You think this guy has $5 or $10 thousand dollars to pay at point of service? You think a court would enforce a contract entered into during a house fire? You think fire department employees are going to take house liens in lieu of cash?

      3. Where are you getting the “five or ten thousand dollars”, Erich? Bearing in mind that the annual fee, which he had paid in several preceding years, is $74? And yes, if the law says “pay your $75 fee in advance, or pay $500 (or $1000 or $5000) if you call us for fire service without having paid” yes, the courts are going to enforce that.

      4. I think the day of the fire it was a bit late to lobby for a new law.

        “And yes, if the law says “pay your $75 fee in advance, or pay $500 (or $1000 or $5000) if you call us for fire service without having paid” yes, the courts are going to enforce that.”

  6. Erich Riesenberg Says:
    October 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Geez, this homeowner made a mistake, and everyone here is kicking him when he is down.

    I’m not interpreting the comments that way Erich. I see most people are on Team Don’t Be a Fucking Douchebag Over a $75 Fee.

      1. $75 is what South Fulton charges for annual fire protection. Do you know better than they do what they need to be charging?

      2. Erich, we’ve tried the “insurance” approach to fire protection, and that’s why we invented municipal fire departments. In the 1700s, btw, not in a modern fit of Evil Socialism.

        Yes, $75 is the cost of fire protection, not the cost of putting out a fire.

        Gene Cranick had been paying his $75 fee every year for several years, and lost track of it this year.

        His neighbors, who did pay their fees, don’t share your and PJ’s belief that the correct way to deal with one unpaid $75 bill was to let his house burn down with his pets inside.

      3. And Lis not once have I stated it is good the fire was not put out.

        I merely asked for a coherent plan to provide fire protection to people who do not want it.

        Your lack of logic is sad but not uncommon.

      4. Lis, I am not sure in what reality you live that you should condemn this man for lving outside of your notion of how communities should function.

        You’re being incoherent, Erich. Who is “this man” that I am “condemning” ?

        And, as I pointed out previously, the whole “subscription fire protection” thing is not a Modern New Idea, but an old one, rejected in favor of tax-supported fire departments, because it’s not actually to your advantage to have your neighbors’ houses burning down because they couldn’t pay or forgot to pay the fee this year.

      5. Lis, you, and most of the people here, mock this man and everyone who lives in his community for not having a tax funded fire system.

        You are plain tedious.

      6. Lis, you, and most of the people here, mock this man and everyone who lives in his community for not having a tax funded fire system.

        No, we have not. We have criticized the fire dept.’s (in)action, and pointed out to you and PJ that there are, in fact, multiple ways to solve the “problem” of providing fire protection to those living in the unincorporated part of the county, other than letting a house burn down over a $75 fee.

        You are plain tedious.

        You are projecting.

      7. So you insist on stating that if every homeowner paid $75 at the point of a fire the fire department could still function.

        I marvel at your lack of logic.

  7. Goodness.
    I grew up in a time and a town with both a volunteer fire department and a volunteer police department.
    We had a police chief and one police officer I seem to recall and a jail but since they couldn’t work 24/7 forever, volunteers picked up the slack.
    When we needed a new fire truck, the volunteers had fund raisers … and they were fun! My dad was both a volunteer fireman and a volunteer policeman. When the fire alarm went off, didn’t matter when it was and what he had to do the next day, he got up and answered it.
    Now I guess that workman’s comp and insurance claims has ruined that in this country. It’s a strange world sometimes to me … I don’t know what the moral of the story is. It’s just sad that because someone couldn’t pay the fire *tax* had to watch his house and pets burn while his neighbors got saved.

    1. Many smaller communities in New England still have volunteer fire departments, or a core full-time crew augmented by volunteers. It’s not gone. It is impractical above a certain community size, though, and there are fewer and fewer communities whose population size is small enough for a volunteer force to be workable.

      Those volunteer forces, btw, do still participate in Mutual Aid, meaning they respond to fires in other communities if needed.

      1. I know many towns including my own in rural Ontario Canada have volunteer fire departments. As mentioned above, they respond to fires in other communities as well.

  8. This is just horrifying. There are so many solutions that could have worked and not resulted in the loss of the family home AND THEIR PETS! I can think of three right off the top of my head – Allow the fee to be paid in various ways, for those who just can’t manage $75 at a time (I’ve been THAT broke before). Allow the fee to be paid at the time service is needed, with an additional fee for the inconvenience of having to take the money then. Allow the fire to be fought, and charge the homeowner the costs of fighting the fire (You won’t forget to pay after you find out how it costs to respond to a fire!).

  9. It depends on the individual firefighter/city.

    Some firefighters have been in the news recently due to them giving CPR to cats and dogs and other pets, saving their precious lives.

    Other fire departments around the nation have cat and dog sized oxygen masks, especially used to save pets in a fire.

    You can even donate them to your local fire dept.

    There IS one double standard that is wrong: If the house is falling in due to the flames, and a member of the human animal species is inside, the firefighter goes in and tries to save them anyway. When a four legged animal is in the same situation, firefighters dont go in to save them nearly as much, and this is due to the human animal’s ingorance, arrogance and speciesism, that we are taught from the moment the Dr spanks our butts.

    If we teach our children the truth: That EVERY LIVING SOUL IS EQUAL, they will grow up and be the firefighters who go in to save the cat or dog, even if the house is falling down around them.

  10. 1. This has been the “rule” in that area for 20 years;
    2. This guy didn’t pay his fee for this year;
    3. This guy didn’t pay his fee for how many of the previous 20 years? (I’m guessing 20 for 20.)
    4. This guy under-insured his home;
    5. This guy let someone else run a burn pile near his home AND let that burn pile get out of control (how old was the grandchild running this burn pile apparently without appropriate supervision?);
    6. This guy clearly didn’t have his water system set up to deal with fire emergencies (and setting it up to do that is relatively easy and a common practice in rural areas with limited fire fighting forces);
    7. AND this guy apparently stood by while his pets were trapped in the burning home instead of busting out windows to go in after the pets. Better to be screaming on the phone for others to come than to do it himself? And how poor a neighbor has he been that no one came running to help?

    Services have to be paid for and this is one community offering their services to another community for a fee, something they don’t have to do at all so why should they get flack for not doing what they had no obligation to do?

    I think it’s rather refreshing to see a small town letting someone suffer the consequences of their choices and actions. Sad that the animals also had to pay but that is part of the consequences to this man’s incredibly poor life choices.

    I’m sick of the pool of responsible people who pay for services continuing to shrink because people like this guy just expect to get services no matter how irresponsibly they behave and no matter how much they cost the rest of society which only encourages the ranks of irresponsible to continue to grow. It’s really no different than someone who can only afford $450/month rent thinking they can somehow buy a $300,000 home when the 1% rule (minimum payment on a $300,000 house will be 1% or $3,000/month; that there will be no down payment, no need for maintenance/repairs…) makes it simple and easy to know that’s just delusional and irresponsible to think that way.

    “Mr. Cranick’s son was arrested for assaulting the fire chief at the firehouse.”
    GOOD! Wonder if it was HIS child who set the fire?! Sounds like it’s long past time for the Cranick family to start taking some responsibility for their own actions and inaction.

  11. 3. This guy didn’t pay his fee for how many of the previous 20 years? (I’m guessing 20 for 20.)

    You’d be wrong. He had paid in previous years, and had forgotten the bill this year. Also, he didn’t expect services without paying. He expected to pay; he was totally prepared to pay substantially more than the $75; his neighbor, who had paid and to whom the fire dept. had responded to protect his house, also offered to pay the fee if they would save Cranick’s house.

    4. This guy under-insured his home;

    On what do you base that statement? Nothing I’ve read or heard suggests that.

    7. AND this guy apparently stood by while his pets were trapped in the burning home instead of busting out windows to go in after the pets. Better to be screaming on the phone for others to come than to do it himself? And how poor a neighbor has he been that no one came running to help?

    You have no idea how quickly the flames spread or whether it was possible to get in and get to the animals without firefighting equipment. His immediate neighbor, who had paid his fee this year, also pleaded with the fire dept. to try to save Cranick’s house. All his neighbors have been expressing disgust and outrage at the actions of the fire dept, not, as you so fondly imagine, Mr. Cranick.

    Services have to be paid for and this is one community offering their services to another community for a fee, something they don’t have to do at all so why should they get flack for not doing what they had no obligation to do?

    It’s not “another community;” it’s the unincorporated area of the same county of which South Fulton is a part.

    And finally, of course, we’ve tried the whole “pay your fire protection fee or we won’t put out the fire if your house catches fire”, and the consequence was that we invented the municipal fire department, supported by taxes.

    If no one in the immediate area had paid their fee, do you think it would have been a good idea for the fire department to let a five square mile area of the county to burn, and only respond when they had houses and businesses all around the perimeter of that area threatened?

    1. Not that I think it is relevant but this is from the story at the top of the page.

      “Insurance is going to pay for what money I had on the policy, looks like. But like everything else, I didn’t have enough.”

      Please cite where he paid in the past, that story and the video there does not provide that info.

      I think in this interview the homeowner states a few years ago the fire department put out the fire of his son although his son has not paid the fee.

      Weird, weird story.

      1. You are a lunatic Lis.

        You are actually bringing politcs into this?

        I will bet you 5:1 this homeowner has more conservative beliefs than I.

        Does that make me right?

    2. Lis, Cranick says he paid for the 2 years before and there’s no independent verification; nor do we know if he paid even those 2 years in a timely fashion.

      Erich caught the same phrase I did with reference to the under-insured issue.

      “You have no idea how quickly the flames spread…”
      IF the fire department coming from a distance (not around the block as in a metro area) would have made a difference and/or this is a typical country home, it couldn’t have been spreading too darned fast!

      “All his neighbors”
      ALL? Really? Where’d you get that wild idea?

      “It’s not “another community;” it’s the unincorporated area of the same county of which South Fulton is a part.”
      We are the world… NO, unincorporated IS a different community! Clearly you lack even a basic grasp of governmental and taxing structures.

      “we invented the municipal fire department”
      No, “we” didn’t but some of our forebears did and it does have to be PAID for. FYI: Cranick CHOSE to live outside the municipal limits!

      Hey, Lis, “forget” to pay your auto insurance on a brand new $45,000 vehicle, let your grandchild wrap it around a tree, and then call the insurance offering to pay the premium if they’ll just take care of that repair bill. Good luck!

      1. Lis, PS: I prefer ABC to MSNBC; the latter was cited by YesBiscuit. I’m just not all that interested in this guy’s foolish choices as to go hunt down all the articles :)

  12. And Lis not once have I stated it is good the fire was not put out.

    I merely asked for a coherent plan to provide fire protection to people who do not want it.

    Your lack of logic is sad but not uncommon.

    On the contrary, it’s you and PJ who are being incoherent and illogical. I and others have pointed out that this is a solved problem: County taxes.

  13. For those interested, here is some detailed history on “fire marks” (in London) which were used in some major cities (including U.S.) hundreds of years ago. The building owner subscribed to private fire insurance and received a badge on the front of the building. If it caught fire, the badge alerted the insurance company’s firemen that this building was “one of theirs”. Obviously this practice failed and municipal fire departments are now the norm. But it’s interesting to look back:

    A writer on Fire Marks has commented: “the fire-mark was invented for the purpose of and used as a guide to the brigade. The shareholders of the first fire office, started, remember, for the purposes of business with the object of making a profit, would not have been such philanthropic idiots as to keep up an expensive brigade to extinguish fires on anyone’s property. No this brigade was formed for two reasons; firstly, as an inducement to people to insure because of its protection and secondly, to enable the company to save as much property as possible, and thus reduce the losses. If, in the event of a fire, a brigade arriving on the scene found it was not their office that insured the risk, and that no surrounding property in which they were interested seemed to be in danger, they went home again, perhaps to bed, and left the fire-fiend to be fought either by the brigade belonging to the insuring company or by the public if no insurance existed” (30).

    This is a pessimistic view. It is doubtful, even in the eighteenth century, if anybody could be so disinterested as to let property burn when the power lay in his hands to prevent it. There are indeed numerous instances recorded of co-operation between different brigades, and even payments from one company to another for assistance rendered by its firemen (31). Even so, it was stated in 1840, when these things were still in people’s minds, that “Until within the last seven or eight years, each Insurance Company had its own engines and firemen, and it too often happened that the latter would decline to exert themselves at the suppression of a fire, unless the building which was a prey to it, was insured with the office to which they belonged” (32).

  14. For the benefit of people who have trouble understanding how taxes are assessed.

    This fire department is owned by the city. The city can not tax people outside the city to force them to buy fire protection.

    I agree it is unfortunate the county and its residents chose this method of fire protection. I do not blame myself for their decision.

    I am still very interested in what system people would design to offer fire protection to people who do not want to pay for it.

      1. As people have already said over and over:





        County, parish, district, whatever. This isn’t rocket science. As many other fire departments have stated recently (after condemning the actions of the fire fighters in this story), the type of fire protection that lead to this tragedy is rare and outdated because pretty much everywhere has come up with better solutions.

      2. or the whole- PAY AN ADDITIONAL FEE AT THE TIME SERVICE IS RENDERED if you didn’t pay ahead of time as required.

        I just can’t tell if you’re being that purposefully obtuse or if you’re just that un-able to read and understand other people’s comments

  15. Erich and the others defending the fire department’s actions are so full of logic.

    In the end, I don’t want to live in a world where fire departments stand by and let a house burn over $75.

    It’s hard to fathom a political/social philosophy so sanguine that it accepts this behavior

    1. It is hard to fathom the lack of basic economic education.

      You think it cost the fire department $75 to respond to a fire? Why in the world would anyone prepay when the chance of a fire is probably a half a percent or less?

      Have you ever not lived in an urban area? Is it really so hard for you to understand there are people with different goals and values from yourself?

      This fire started from someone burning trash. Burning trash is not allowed in most cities. It is one benefit of living outside of regulated environements.

      1. They didn’t let the house burn down over the full cost of fighting a fire; they let it burn down over a $75 fee.

        What if when Cranick’s neighbor, who did pay the fee, called, the list had been wrong, his name wasn’t on it, and they let his house burn down? Would that be okay with you, too? After all, they followed the list…

      2. Try to see a tiny bit of reality Lis.

        The homeowner (grandson was it?) started the fire, but no, you don’t want to blame him.

        The county does not want to fund a fire service, but no, they are blameless.

        This guy does not want to pay a fire service, but no, not his fault.

        Clearly, the fault is the neighboring city.

        Next time someone wins the lotto offer to buy their share for $1. You deserve nothing less.

    2. Then you and Lis are welcome to pick up the tab for the deadbeats like the Cranicks but don’t ask the rest of us to do so. PLEASE go find all the “Cranick” families out there and pony up their $75/year and whatever other public service fees you want to sponsor. I’m sure the fire departments will have no problem taking your gifts on their behalf.

    3. “hard to fathom a political/social philosophy so sanguine that it accepts this behavior”
      Not at all. It’s called balancing budgets and owning responsibility for ones choices and decisions.

  16. Can we limit the future discussion on this post to NEW information please? I think we’ve fairly well covered everyone’s opinions on the old information. Thanks.

  17. Lis, Lastly, our family farm is on the edge of a county in Missouri and has NO 911 services at all; usually takes 30+ minutes for the sheriff’s deputies to show up to a REAL crime so we own guns to protect ourselves. I knew that when I moved there and it never would occur to me to call the neighboring city’s 911 services for help. When I was having mini strokes, I knew it was up to ME to get myself help. This is all just a part of choosing to live in a rural area that doesn’t have those services.

    1. We still have roads that 911 can’t get down during rainy season. If you need them, you have to have someone get you in the four-wheel drive or whatever, take you to the end of the road and meet them there. We also have a several roads that start in one county and end in another. It can be confusing even for 911. One in particular, begins in my county and dead ends in the neighboring county. 911 has to drive into ours to get to theirs and at first they refused.
      We had to pick them up and deliver them to them at the county line. crazy! I think that something has been worked out now and whoever gets there is who gets there.

  18. The morons at the county set themselves up for a situation like this when they instituted the “optional” fire coverage fee. It shouldn’t take a genius to see that:

    1) Making fire protection ‘optional’ set the stage for some sleazebags to opt out (and no, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone specific here, just pointing out the potential for some to take advantage) and reduce badly needed funding and –

    2) Set them up in a position where a situation like the Cranick’s was bound to happen and to result in the massive amounts of negative publicity we see associated with the story.

    Fire protection is not like flood insurance. I have strong libertarian leanings but I believe that as human beings we have some root obligation to do what we can to save those in danger. In my world, this includes putting out fires when you have the ability to do so. Even if the home owner is a complete and utter scuz-bag.

    I do not believe that we have the same obligation to save people from non-life-threatening laziness, pig-headedness or greed. So if you choose not to buy insurance and then lose your house or belongings I do not feel that I (or the insurance company or society) have an obligation to buy you new ones.

    1. I read, although don’t know if it’s accurate, the the fire levy was something like 13 cents a month. I’m guessing it got on the ballot and low information voters saw the word TAX and marked NO without even reading it.

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