Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Newsflash - I'm Heartless

Looks like I have old, unpublished posts around, so here ya go.

I got called heartless and told I have "no empathy" because I wasn't outraged that a rural fire department didn't put out a house fire at the home of a woman who didn't pay for those services.  One thing that came up was the fact that the firefighters bothered to show up, then watched and let it burn.  The question at hand was why bother to show up at all if you're just going to watch it burn?

It's simple.  You pay for services, those services are provided.  You don't pay for them, you don't get em'.

I could be wrong here, but it seems to me that firefighters have an obligation to show up even though the woman had not paid the fee. This is for two reasons, and it's not to be assholes, as the person who called me heartless would contend. One, while they are willing to let property burn, they are not willing to let a family die in their home over a $75 fee. This means they show up, ensure that people are safe, and then proceed no further. Two, they have to show up to the call to ensure that adjacent property / homes (who have paid the fee) are protected.

Keep in mind that in this case we have a municipal, taxpayer funded fire department that essentially contracts its services out to those outside of its municipality.  You wouldn't expect the municipal taxpayers who fund the department to pay for the fire department to fight fires elsewhere, would you? Would that even be practical or financially sustainable? No. It makes perfect sense that the city fire department would be limited fighting fires within its jurisdiction, except as provided by other contractual agreements.

Here's the bottom line.  Vicky Bell lived in an area without fire protection.  A neighboring city expanded their coverage outside of the municipal limits, for a flat fee of $75 / year.  Vicky Bell was aware of this and chose not to pay the fee.  Do I wish she had not lost her house?  Do I wish her community had a volunteer fire department of its own?  Sure. 

I empathize with her situation because, well, it sucks.  Still, it's her own damn fault.

"Bell and her boyfriend admitted they were aware but thought this would never happen to them."

H/T to Uncle


Divemedic said...

Why would ANYONE pay the fee, if the fire department is going to put out the fires anyhow?
Putting the fire out and then sending the family a bill won't work for two reasons:
1 What will make the deadbeats pay? Fire departments that bill for EMS services have a 30-40% collection rate. Why would fire fees be any different?
2 The fire department has to maintain equipment and personnel, even if there are no fires. This means that waiting to collect after the fact will mean that fire departments cannot buy equipment until AFTER the fire.

A fire department is insurance that a community buys to protect itself, and the residents of that county have voted more than once to NOT have a fire department, paid or volunteer. Demanding that others pay for or provide a service that benefits you at no cost is socialism, pure and simple.

Follow this thought to its logical conclusion: If a community must pay to fight fires to protect your home and property, even if you do not pay for fire service, then why not pass similar rules for groceries, food, medicine, health care, and housing.

After all, you only have a limited amount of money, and how can anyone afford a cell phone, big screen, an Xbox, and Nike sneakers if you spend all of your money on food, shelter and fire protection?

mike's spot said...

i wonder if Home owners insurance will still pay out if you elected to refuse services like this.

Divemedic said...

They had no insurance.

FYI: Insurance companies require that you pay these fees in advance.

Bill Rosich said...

I totally agree that the FD has no obligation to put out a fire at a house whose owner has not paid for the service(s).

But why not just roll that "optional" $75 fee into the mandatory property taxes?

That's the only way these communities are going to be able to avoid controversies like this in the future. And I'll et it won't be long before some ambulance chaser convinces a sympathetic jury that the FD was acting out of callous greed and the deadbeat ex-home owner is going to take the county (read: the county's taxpayers) for a couple of million.