Man Won't Pay for Fire Protection; Firemen Watch Home Burn

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

When firemen respond to a fire, they usually work very hard to put out the fire to limit injury and damage. Well, firefighters in Tennessee simply watched a house burn to the ground -- all over $75.

The rural town of Obion County does not have its own fire department. So homeowners there have to pay $75 per year to the neighboring city of South Fulton if they want protection.

Gene Cranick didn't want to pay, and when his house caught fire last week he found out what the expression "penny wise, pound foolish" means. He tried to put out the fire with his garden hose. When he couldn't control it, he called 911, offering to pay all expenses to the South Fulton fire department for its services.

But firefighters refused because Cranick didn't pay the fee. They only responded to the scene when Cranick's fee-paying neighbor called with concerns that the fire could spread to his house.

They stood ready with the fire hoses and watched fire ravage Cranick's house. They only jumped into action when the fire reached the neighbor's property.

"I hadn't paid my $75 and that's what they want, $75, and they don't care how much it burned down," Cranick told WPSD-TV. "I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong."

The incident has somehow sparked a debate between the left and the right. Writing for the right-leaning National Review, Daniel Foster, a self-described "conservative with fairly libertarian leanings," was outraged:

"What moral theory allows these firefighters (admittedly acting under orders) to watch this house burn to the ground when 1) they have already responded to the scene; 2) they have the means to stop it ready at hand; 3) they have a reasonable expectation to be compensated for their trouble?"

But Foster's colleague Kevin Williamson took the opposite view:

"The South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before. The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates — and the problems they create for themselves are their own. These free-riders have no more right to South Fulton's firefighting services than people in Muleshoe, Texas, have to those of NYPD detectives."