Last month, a family whose house caught on fire in Obion County, Tennessee watched helplessly as their home burned down, as their local fire department first refused to respond — then showed up only to watch as the house burned completely to the ground.
Residents of Obion County are not automatically provided with fire department protection. Each year, the residents are required to pay a separate $75 fee if they protection from the local fire department in South Fulton.
Homeowner Gene Cranick did not pay this fee. He claims he offered to pay anything it would take for the firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late and that they couldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning.
The Cranicks called 911 several times, and each time the fire department refused to come. They offered to pay the firefighters, no matter the cost, to stop the fire outdoors before it could spread to their house.
Channel 6 News in nearby Paducah, Kentucky reported that the fire went on for hours as civilians attempted to put out the fire with garden hoses unsuccessfully. It was not until the blaze spread to a neighbor’s yard who had paid the fee that the department responded.
The fire chief refused to speak to members of the media who arrived at the scene of the fire and called police to have them escorted off the property. Before the police could arrive, the firefighters left the scene as the Cranick house continued burning.
“Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t,” the Mayor replied when asked if the fire chief could have made an exception in this instance.
Friends and neighbors were outraged after the incident, but the Cranicks don’t blame the firefighters themselves.
“They’re doing their job,” Paulette Cranick said, referring to the firefighters. “They’re doing what they are told to do. It’s not their fault.”
Soon after the fire department returned to the station, the Obion County Sheriff’s Department reported that an unnamed person went to the station and assaulted one of the firefighters.
More recently, the Obion County Budget Committee passed an agreement to give more communities in the county the option of paying a subscription to purchase fire service — essentially expanding the service that stood by and watched as the Cranick family’s home burned to the ground.
However, according to the Obion County Fire Department’s own documents presented to the county commission in 2008, a 0.13 cent increase in property tax would generate enough money to implement and fund fire services for all towns within the entire county. These public documents can be viewed here (bottom of page 21).
Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison objects to the recent expansion of the subscription service, saying that “the best option is a true fire tax. It eliminates this having 911 or whoever check to say, ‘Are they covered or not covered?’ The last thing a firefighter wants to do is to not be able to help when they’d like to.”
What do you think about this?