A Tennessee homeowner in Obion County, Gene Cranick, saw his house burn to the ground because the firefighters would not put it out. He chose not to pay a $75 annual fee for fire protection, which every county resident has the option of paying if they want the fire department to respond. Although it is a shame that the house caught on fire and burned to the ground, we can learn a few lessons from this event. We can learn that with freedom comes responsibility and the requirement to pay consequences. The fire department could potentially look over its policy and come up with a billing system for people that choose not to pay the fee.
Freedom and Responsibility
With freedom comes responsibility; it also requires that we pay the consequences for our actions. Cranick, along with all the other homeowners in Obion County, Tennessee, were free to choose to pay for the fire department’s services or not. Cranick chose not to pay for the fire department’s services, and paid the consequences when his house caught on fire. Some of us pay the consequences for our actions when we eat too much, smoke too much, or charge too much on our credit cards.
Should we require people to pay the $75 fee for fire protection services? While some may argue yes, if we truly believe in freedom, then we have to allow people the choice to turn down this service if they want. Homeowners that choose not to take advantage of the service are not hurting anybody else, and should therefore be free to make their own decisions. The only people that were hurt by Cranick’s decision were the members of his family. He made the choice, he paid the consequence.
The Firefighter’s Response
The firefighters couldn’t have allowed Cranick to pay the $75 while the house was on fire or have made an exception and fought the fire without him paying the fee. If they had done that, nobody would want to pay the fee in the future. The fire department would not have enough money to operate, and then nobody would have fire protection. Services like police, fire, and ambulance protection cost money. If these entities don’t get enough money to operate, they would have to shut down.
I have listened to discussions on this news story, and many are comparing it to insurance; it is similar, to a point. Like health, homeowner’s, or car insurance, you don’t get the insurance company to pay for your bill if you don’t pay for the insurance; however, if you have no insurance, you can still pay the full cost of the service. For example, Bill Gates wouldn’t really need to buy insurance. He could self-insure his automobiles by posting a $60,000 bond with the state of Washington; Gates wouldn’t even need health insurance, because even if he caught a disease that would cost $25 million a year to treat for the rest of his life, he would have the money to cover the costs. If the Obion County fire service was like insurance, they would have given him the option of paying for the full cost of fighting the fire, whatever that might amount to.
Perhaps the Obion County fire department would like to take a second look at its policies for future incidents. They could put together an analysis of how much it costs to fight a fire. Perhaps it costs $5,000 to send a fire truck to the scene, and $2,000 per hour to have a crew at the fire. In the future, if a homeowner didn’t want to pay the $75 fee, they could bill the customer (or their homeowner’s insurance) for the costs of fighting the fire. This would prevent catastrophes like this fire from occurring again, yet would still provide an incentive for homeowners to pay the $75 fee if they didn’t want to pay for the full costs of fighting the fire.
Baker, Scott. “Firefighters Let Home Burn Because Owner Didn’t Pay $75.” TheBlaze.com, 5 October 2010.