Firefighters Let House Burn and Pets Die Over $75

by Khaleef Crumbley on October 8, 2010

in Insurance

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So, I’m sure that many of you have already heard about the house that burned down in Tennessee because the owner didn’t pay a $75 fee to the neighboring city. Here’s is a video of the account:

Gene Cranick says that firefighters watched as his home burned to the ground and refused to help, because he hadn’t paid an annual “pay to spray” fee.

According to the ABC News article:

The city of South Fulton charges that $75 fire protection fee to rural residents who live outside the city limits. When a household has not paid the fee, firefighters are required by law to not respond.

“We have to follow the rules and the ordinances set forth to us, and that’s exactly what we do,” said Jeff Vowell, South Fulton city manager.

When I first read this story, I wondered why the firefighters would travel all the way to his house just to watch it burn down. However, they only showed up to protect his neighbor’s home (his neighbor paid his fee)!

“My neighbor called [the fire department], saying whatever it takes, we want them to put it out, we’ll pay $500,” said Cranick. “They told us, ‘It’s too late.'”

Before we get too outraged with the idea of paying a fee, keep in mind that this is a common practice. Many cities charge a fee to nearby rural communities for emergency services. Cranick didn’t pay the fee and therefore, didn’t receive the service!

Two Different Views…

They did nothing wrong!

This is no different than insurance: You pay a fee (premium) for protection from a future event that may or may not happen. If the event happens, you’re covered; if it doesn’t, you don’t get your money back. No insurance company will let you wait until your house burns down to take out a policy! You must have the coverage BEFORE the incident.

He made the mistake of letting his coverage lapse, and he wasn’t eligible to file a claim  [on the service] when he faced an emergency! This is done all of the time without complaint.

They had a moral obligation to help!

Even though he didn’t pay the fee, the firefighters had a moral obligation to help. We’re not talking about rescuing a cat that got stuck in a tree – then I can understand refusing service. However, they just stood there and watched everything this man owned get destroyed! They were already there, how much would it have really cost them to help?

What do you think?

  • Should the firefighters have gone out to the scene even though Cranick didn’t pay the fire protection fee?
  • If not, should they have at least put out the fire once they showed up to assist his neighbor?
  • If someone doesn’t pay for a service, do they still have a right to expect that service when it’s needed?
  • Do you think there should be any changes to this policy?

© 2010 – 2011, Khaleef Crumbley. All rights reserved.

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