For-pay fire department lets non-subscriber’s house burn.

I had lunch with a fellow blogger and he kindly described my blog as eclectic.   That was much kinder than scattershot, or without-a-focus.  His blog, by the way, has razor focus and thousands of hits per day.

I’m still trying to find my way in Busan.  I was comfortable in Gangwon and being Gangwon’s premier blogger (woop-de-doo!).  Do I need a niche or a specific focus for this blog?

To continue my eclecticism, let me discuss a Salon article that has nothing to do with Korea, or Canada, or the environment or anything else I normally cover.  In a Tennessee town, the fire department is subscriber-funded.  Subscribers pay $75 a year for the department’s services.  One man did not pay and when his house caught fire, the fire department stood there and watched it burn.

The Salon article is framed as part of a political debate with conservatives and libertarians on one side and liberals on the other.  As I have no particular political axe to grind, I’ll ignore that part.

The part of the story that I am interested in is when the fire department came on scene, the homeowner offered to pay. He was told it was too late and nothing was done to stop his house from burning.  It spread to a neighbor’s house and the fire department leapt into action as the neighbor subscribed to the service.

I am against voluntary payment for the fire department and feel that a mandatory tax is the only intelligent move and this story -and the Salon’s framing of it- shows why.

If the fire department had accepted the money on the spot (or received a check the next day…) and put out the fire, no one should pay the fee next year.  Even if the homeowner had to pay for several years back-subscription, that would still be good odds considering the likelihood of a fire in the first place.  I don’t know the stats, but I imagine that if a hundred homeowners were to stop paying their fees,the odds of a fire through the life of the 100 homes would be small (smokers and wood-stove owners and the like should feel a little more encouraged to pay.)  If you had the option to pay even after your house caught fire, there is little incentive to pay until that event.

So, I don’t like the for-pay system, but the fire chief was absolutely right to not accept payment on the spot.

He was remiss in not containing the blaze – the fact that it reached the neighbor’s home is a real black spot on his record.  He should have been involved to at least the minimum extent to protect the neighbor’s house.

In this article on the story -with video, the homeowners “don’t blame the firefighters themselves. They blame the people in charge.”- The only way they can rightly blame the ‘people in charge’ is to blame the p-i-c for not forcing them to pay the fee.



2 Responses to “For-pay fire department lets non-subscriber’s house burn.”

  1. The Sanity Inspector Says:

    This happened a couple of times in Arkansas, in the 80s, to similar international uproar. Sometimes townies moving to the country don’t understand the concept of volunteer departments, and shrug off the dues notices.

  2. surprisesaplenty Says:

    I had written that the fire chief made the right decision to let the house burn (and the wrong one in not laying down some protective spray to protect neighbors) but I feel more and more merciful as time goes by. Letting the house burn was right, but I sorta wish they had put it out.

    My hometown has a volunteer fire department – there are no professionals manning the trucks – but they are still funded by a mandatory tax. – Um, they might not be volunteer now – it’s been a few years, after all.

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