There’s a global warming lesson here somewhere….

… in this Think Progress cross-post, “Tennessee County’s Subscription-Based Firefighters Watch As Family Home Burns Down.”  Don’t miss the temperature-raising video:

As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground:

Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won’t respond, then watches it burn. That’s exactly what happened to a local family tonight. A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning. Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay. The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck. […]

We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception. “Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer, either they accept it or they don’t,” Mayor David Crocker said.

Watch local news station Local 6’s report on the fire:

The fire reportedly continued for hours “because garden hoses just wouldn’t put it out. It wasn’t until that fire spread to a neighbor’s property, that anyone would respond” “” only because the neighbor had paid the fee.

A local newspaper further pressed Mayor Crocker about the city’s policy, which has been in place since 1990. Crocker, a Republican who was elected in 2008 and serves with a county commission where every seat is also filled by a Republican, likened the policy to buying auto insurance. The paper said he told them that, after all, “if an auto owner allowed their vehicle insurance to lapse, they would not expect an insurance company to pay for an unprotected vehicle after it was wrecked.”

Ironically, in the county commission’s latest report on its fire services, which outlines which parts of the municipal area will receive fire services only through subscriptions, the commissioners and fire service officials brag that the county is “very progressive.”

— Think Progress

JR:  I’m going to file this under adaptation.

UPDATE:  Amazingly, as TP posts, “National Review Writers Defend County Whose Subscription-Only Firefighters Watched Home Burn Down.”

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33 Responses to There’s a global warming lesson here somewhere….

  1. Abe says:

    The part that makes this make even less sense is that if the policy had allowed for a “late payment”, in the event of something like this, the people who HAD paid wouldn’t have had to deal with fire damage on their property.

  2. darth says:

    Wow this idea is bad on so many levels:

    1. What if the guy had paid but the record of payment was lost. Do you want to risk having a house burn because of a paperwork error?

    2. It must be an administrative nightmare for the fire dept. to bill all these people every year. And handle bad checks, credit cards that don’t get approved, etc.

    Number 1 above also needlessly exposes the fire dept. to huge liability risk if they don’t respond and someone really has paid.

    Much easier for the county to just include it in the regular taxes that people pay (Cmon $75 per year – 6.25 a month) That way everyone get service, the county handles the paperwork (they are doing it anyway for property taxes), and the liability risk is zero. The county can then just contract for services from the 8 departments and just pay them directly, either annually or on a per call basis.

    So, a simple tax FOR THE EXACT SAME COST reduces liability, improves service to 100% and requires less work (billing, etc). What am I missing here?

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    And therein lies the problem of the political right, as exemplified by the deniers. At the top you have the wealthy who are (or think they are) insulated from the ramifications of crappy public policy, so they will say and do anything to further enrich themselves in terms of money or power. Anyone here think that the CEOs of the major oil companies are worried about the future of their children and grandchildren? Of course not. Those people (and I am painfully aware of the violence I do to that word) are quite content to sell out everyone else’s future while ensuring their own family won’t pay a price.

    At the bottom you have the ideologues, the people who think the Tea Party is a nifty idea, the ones who want to “throw all the bums out” and replace them with corporate shills, the ones who think any gov’t intervention in markets is a Very Bad Thing, unless it’s in the form of a check made out to them.

    As long as the ideologues continue to let themselves be fooled by the wealthy and powerful and the progressives fail to show up in force at the polls every time they become “disillusioned”, this state of affairs will not change.

    Instead of “what’s wrong with Kansas”, we should be asking “what the [expletive] is wrong with America???” Sadly the answer is the right has no heart (at the top) and no brain (at the bottom), and the left has no spine.

  4. PSU Grad says:

    There’s the Tea Party vision of our country’s future in a nutshell. Is that really what people want?

  5. GFW says:

    And thus, in a civilized country where people are embedded in a mesh of interdependence,
    auto insurance is mandatory (if you have an auto)
    health insurance should be mandatory (everyone has “a health”)
    childhood education is mandatory
    fire protection should be mandatory

    and the providers of such services should either be regulated into keeping costs low (so they can’t abuse the privilege of providing a mandatory service) or should be a government function (e.g. police).

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Vietnam –

    At least 13,300 people in Ha Tinh were evacuated to safer areas after 728 millimetres (29 inches) of rain fell, the agency said.

  7. Bob Doublin says:

    Back in the ’70’s when I was young and naive and not had much experience in the REAL world, I fell for this Libertarian garbage for a number of years (and I most sincerely apologize to the world for this). I remember being specifically told that stuff like this wouldn’t happen;that the fire services would put the fires out and bill the person later. I guess they’ll say anything to get people to fall for this crap. I hope the neighbor sues them for waiting so long

  8. Bob Doublin says:

    Oh yeah, historically, wasn’t the main reason why they went to public fire depts in the first place was because the companies would hold people’s lives and properties for ransom-even interfering with other companies trying to help until the victim paid up their extortionate demands for fees or higher fees than the victim had previously paid in the first place. What a con job.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Re : The Colorado River & Lake Mead water levels –

    ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2010) — The convergence in the coming year of three cyclical conditions affecting ocean temperatures and weather is likely to create unprecedented challenges for states that depend on water from the Colorado River, a new UCLA study suggests.

    “If I were concocting a recipe for a perfect drought, this would be it,” said Glen MacDonald, co-author of the study and director of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

  10. paulm says:

    That really is a crappy approach.
    They should really be able to process credit cards on the sopt it they have that attitude.
    To have this attitude institutionalized is almost getting to a far far right agenda.

  11. with the doves says:

    That’s insane. Letting a fire burn endangers people who paid their “subscription” (can’t call it a tax in a GOP county) more than putting it out immediately would.

    I weep for my country.

  12. paulm says:

    #6Colorado Bob, food prices going to be going up soon!

  13. James says:

    What kind of twisted morals are on display here by the firefighters? These people aren’t fit to belong the same profession as the 343 firemen who died on 9/11. Shame on you Tennessee for putting money before any kind of human values.

  14. Chris Winter says:

    “The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee.”

    I’ve heard that similar things are happening in Colorado Springs, also due to a conservative philosophy of government. People having to pay to keep street lights on. Police not available 24/7, so in event of trouble people have to leave a voicemail message for the next morning.

    I haven’t been able to confirm this, however.

  15. with the doves says:

    @darth – Taxes are evil. Subscriptions are noble.

    It speaks volumes that they would let a fire destroy a home, lose the associated property taxes, and endanger the neighborhood in order to screw somebody out of $75.00.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    Extreme rainfall across New Zealand saw last month make the history books as one of the wettest Septembers on record.

    Double the amount of normal rainfall hit the southwest of the North Island, the north and northwest of the South Island and Invercargill.

    The wet weather caused chaos around the country – closing schools, bringing down hillsides, flooding rivers and blocking roads and rail lines.

    Records for the wettest month were broken in Turangi, Taumaranui, Te Kuiti, Paraparaumu, Palmerston North, Invercargill, Hawera, Ohakune, Waiouru, Wanganui, Takaka and at Lake Rotoiti.

    Numerous other areas recorded their second, third or fourth-wettest Septembers in history.

  17. wag says:

    Here’s the global warming lesson: It’s less to do with the firemen not putting out the fire, and more to do with the fact that the guy’s NEIGHBOR’s house caught on fire because he hadn’t paid his fire protection fee.

    It’s a lesson on the limits of rugged individualism: you’re free to do whatever you want on your property, until the effects of whatever you’re doing spread onto my property (or into a commons like the atmosphere or ocean). And in today’s interconnected world, where we find ourselves increasingly at the mercy of actions taken by people we’ve never met, we’ve all got a bit more say in the risks others take, whether with fires, finance, or fossil fuels.

    Like fires, pollution doesn’t stay put—and like a fire spreading from your house to mine, as soon as the pollution leaves your property, I have every right to tell you to stop.

    If my neighbor’s house catches fire, it could spread to mine—meaning I have a right to make that neighbor to pay for fire protection. If an Arkansas farmer dumps his farm waste into the Mississippi River, it travels down to the Gulf where it fertilizes algae and starves fish of oxygen—meaning that those fishermen have a say in what the farmer does with his waste (or else they must be compensated). And if a utility decides to burn coal to save money, the CO2 gets into the atmosphere and wreaks havoc on the climate other people depend on—meaning that we have a say in the utility’s choice of fuel.

    I’m basically a libertarian: do what you want, as long as you only hurt yourself. I would be fine with other people’s right to burn coal and drive Hummers if they were the only ones who had to live with the consequences of global warming. But that’s not the world we live in. No matter how energy conscious I am, no matter whether I live close to work and don’t drive, my responsible choices can’t protect me or my children from the pollution-intensive lifestyles of others.

    Like it or not, we’re all in this together. As the Cranick family found out, we now live in such close connection to others that one person’s rugged individualism can set his neighbor’s house on fire, mortgage loans in California can bring down banks in New York, and Hummer-driving soccer moms in Kansas can affect monsoon seasons in Bangladesh. And as soon as the CO2 exits someone else’s tailpipe and enters my atmosphere, it absolutely becomes my business.

  18. Scott says:

    “On your own society”. That’s funny.

    The cheapskate owned a home. If he can affored a home, he can afford the $75 annual fee. But he’d rather freeload the system than pay the annual $75 fee for service. A rational person would look at the risk/reward of that decision and consider it a no-brainer. I’d love to know what percentage of people opt-in. I’d be surprised if it is less than 90%.

    Freedom sucks. Hopefully, progressives will take more of what remains of our feedom so that idiots can be protected from making bad decisions.

  19. John Mason says:

    I’m Conservative in UK terms – with a small ‘C’. You know – “if it ain’t broke don’t try fixing it”. That sort of thing.

    This stuff is utterly different – it is pure lunacy. Beyond weapons-grade stupid. I am ever more amazed at what is going on Stateside. And HOW DARE these idiots call themselves “Conservative”? “Thick” is a more appropriate description. Or, perhaps, “Morlocks”?

    Cheers – John

  20. Michael T says:

    4 October 2010

    Arctic sea ice extent falls to third-lowest extent; downward trend persists

    “This September, Arctic sea ice extent was the third-lowest in the satellite record, falling below the extent reached last summer. The lowest- and second-lowest extents occurred in 2007 and 2008. Satellite data indicate that Arctic sea ice is continuing a long-term decline, and remains younger and thinner than it was in previous decades.”

    “All indications are that sea ice will continue to decline over the next several decades,” said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze. “We are still looking at a seasonally ice-free Arctic in twenty to thirty years.”

  21. john atcheson says:

    I understand the outrage at the fire department, but maybe the real lesson is in the guy’s refusal to pay the fee. Isn’t this just the logical consequence of the whole tea party/republican small government, low taxes thing? — what do you want to bet this guy was a member of the go-it-alone “I won’t give gubmint nothin” school of public policy? Now he’s just reaping the reward of his philosophy.

  22. Peter Sergienko says:

    Private enterprise should still prevent this situation in all but very rare cases where a homeowner has no mortgage. That is, lender requires fire insurance and lender and/or insurer require homeowner to pay the $75 fire protection fee at risk of incurring a default under the mortgage or having the fire risk declared uninsurable. No lender or insurer wants the outcome that just occurred here.

    Of course, none of this excuses the idiocy of not paying the fee and the idiocy of a public policy that allows one to opt in or out of fire protection. I also suspect that at least some of the losses that just occurred will be publicly socialized notwithstanding this ill-conceived free market approach to fire fighting.

  23. The climate change angle to this story is that decisions that affect everyone one are being delegated to a gazillion tiny bureaucracies.

    And for climate change that won’t do at all.

  24. adelady says:

    I’d like to know what insurance companies think of this arrangement. My instinctive response would be that everyone’s premiums would have to go up, because this policy endangers every property in the area. Just as poor flood mitigation endangers all life and property in an area.

    And it does it in three ways. One, fire starting anywhere ‘unpaid’ is more likely to spread to an insured house. Two, a simple oversight or absence on holiday can result in a normally covered house not being coverd just at the time a fire breaks out. Three, funds to maintain an adequate fire service for the area are not guaranteed.

    I agree with whoever it was said this was “thick”.

  25. amm says:

    The funny (or truly sad) thing is that this guy and his family will probably still vote republican in the next election.

  26. Laphroaig says:

    Perhaps I’m reading this incorrectly, but it seems that the subscription is for people outside the municipality of South Fulton who are not paying taxes to that city. It reminds me a bit of my neck of the woods where the rich folk build their McMansions outside the city limits for the lower property taxes (county portion) but still want police and fire protection from the city. Now the sane thing to do is to have the county use some of its tax revenue to pay cities to extend those services into unincorporated areas. Instead, it looks like the idiot gummint of Obion county has made no provision for this, leaving rural residents to their own devices. South Fulton seems to be offering their FD’s services to people OUTSIDE of their municipality. I doubt they have the option of taxing those people or imposing any mandatory fees.
    I agree that it’s ridiculous not to have a process for charging (perhaps with a hefty “late fee”) for services at the scene (and leaving a fire to spread is stupid) but the city’s first duty is to use its limited resources to see to the needs of its own citizens first, no? I don’t think the city is the real villain here, it’s the idiot county government run by tax-allergic anarcho-capitalists.

  27. adelady says:

    Idiotic is the word. Perhaps they could adopt our local “Emergency Services Levy”. Regardless of local council charges for whatever services are provided, everyone has to chip in for statewide emergency stuff.

    This US notion that “local” is always better is really really dumb when “local” is defined or applied in a way that defies both logic and common sense. The behaviour of the fire crew is mysterious to me. What on earth would they have done or not done if someone had been trapped inside?

  28. robert says:

    I think the lesson here is this: Small cost for risk management is worth it — particularly when the risk is for catastrophic impact.

    I don’t know why Mr. Cranick didn’t pay is seventy five bucks, but I’m sure he wishes he had. In fact, I’ll wager he had a county government (as a previous poster remarked) that simply provided for this protection for all county residents. But you can’t do that in a county filled with “every man for himself” numbskulls. Fortunately no one was physically hurt. The same can’t be said for our lack of risk management regarding climate change.

  29. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    I’ll bet his guy did not even have house insurance. I can’t imagine the insurance company selling him a policy if he did not have fire protection. In this situation companies sometimes include the fire protection fee in the policy premium, which they forward to the city.

  30. Some European says:

    I don’t want big government to protect my house! I surrre don’t…
    Here’s a funny video that sums up the Grand Tea Party World View:

  31. Chris Winter says:

    Laphroaig wrote: “It reminds me a bit of my neck of the woods where the rich folk build their McMansions outside the city limits for the lower property taxes (county portion) but still want police and fire protection from the city.”

    That does seem to be the Republican pattern in the USA today: privatize the profits, socialize the risks.

  32. Chris Winter says:

    Scott wrote: “Freedom sucks. Hopefully, progressives will take more of what remains of our feedom (sic) so that idiots can be protected from making bad decisions.”

    You sound like one of those conservatives who seem to want people to make bad decisions. Why else would you repeat the lie that progressives want to abolish freedom?

    The way to prevent people from making bad decisions is to teach them why those decisions are bad.

  33. Ben says:

    The Global Warming Lesson? If you have read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein then you know how the pieces connect – services (hospital, security, fire, educational, adaptation, etc) for wealthy elites in Green Zones, while the non-elites suffer in a world of hell & high water.

    It is called a plutocracy, but Ms. Klein has insightfully described it as Disaster Capitalism – led by economic ators that certainly do not want to forestall disaster – that is where all the growth is! Using disaster as a pretext for dismantling the commonwealth… Global Warming is a very convenient truth for some people…

    And you can count on it, because liberals don’t have the gonads to stand up and fight. Screw the mommy party and the daddy party and their disfunctional, codependant relationship. We need to move out of the house!