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Fire protection

2010-10-04 23:03:59.907226+00 by Dan Lyke 10 comments

So the Intarwebs are up in arms today over the sad story of a guy who lived in a county in Tennessee, in an area that didn't have fire protection services. Residents, however, had the option of buying fire protection services from a nearby city for the princely sum of $75 per year. Yes, that's a whopping $6.25 a month. But this guy wasn't willing to pay for the upkeep of a fire department, participate in the common good. One news report quotes him as saying:

"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," said Gene Cranick.

So guy expects that someone else is going to undertake the capital costs of putting together a fire department, and the ongoing costs of keeping it ready, so that in the event his house burns down they can then go after him, newly destitute from losing his house ('cause a guy who'll gamble with $6.25 per month probably won't carry insurance either), for the costs of putting out the fire and keeping a bunch of hundred thousand dollar plus trucks hanging around in running order and staffed with people who know how to use that equipment.

Well, sure enough, someone's got a fire going in a couple of burn barrels in this guys back yard, it gets out of control and gets his house. He calls the fire department. They say "no dice". It gets further out of control, his neighbor, who has been foresightful enough to help support his local fire department, calls the fire department, and the fire department puts out the fire on the neighbor's property.

So guy who couldn't be bothered for seven bucks a month to participate in an existing fire department endangers his neighbor's property, loses his house, and varous people in my social circles on the internet are sorry for him?

Sorry, y'all: The guy got what's coming to him, and if the world is fair his neighbor should be able to sue him for what little assets he has left.

A relative of Mr Cranick apparently was so stuck in this sense of entitlement that he went and punched out the fire chief.

Now there are a lot of complaints that he shouldn't have been allowed to opt-out, the county should have provided the fire protection by default, the fire district should have saved his house anyway and billed him later. A few things on that:

  1. Whatever. Whether or not he should have been able to opt-out, he did opt-out.
  2. Yeah, it'd be great if the county provided such services. Who's the local government? Residents who get off their ass and make things happen. Presumably not assholes who can't be arsed for $75 a year to stop mistakes before they endanger neighbors.
  3. Bill him for it later? If everyone did that, do you think there'd actually be a fire department? Should they be able to run a credit check before they start fighting the fire? How does that work exactly? Probably much like modern emergency rooms: The fire departments would pass the costs on to the people responsible enough to pay their freakin' $75/month, and it'd go up to a grand a month for the people who actually would pay, and then we'd be talking about closing down fire departments, and someone would decide that firefighters had to have special protections so they made real profits in order to keep 'em in business, and we'd be spending 18% of our GNP on fire protection too.

So, yeah, sucks to be Gene Cranick. If you don't want to be the next Gene Cranick, take basic steps to protect your home, including, perhaps, getting involved in your local government to set up systems so that assholes like Gene Cranick who think that the government is some magical thing that will protect them from themselves no matter what can't endanger your home.

News story about the house burning, News story about the assault and battery on the fire chief, Volokh, Metafilter, Sensible Erection.

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-06 17:54:32.515226+00 by: Dan Lyke

More conversation on this over at Eccentric Flower: All Wrong Pegs.

On "...a model libertarian community of a population density greater than 25 persons per square mile...", part of my disenchantment with Objectivism was realizing that procreating to a population density over about 1 per square mile was an act of violence.

#Comment Re: community services made: 2010-10-06 17:33:51.803226+00 by: tpk

- pay as you go, a la carte, opt in or out of community services as you wish? - isn't this perfect libertarianism? would really like to see a model libertarian community of a population density greater than 25 persons per square mile. until it has a decade of experience under its belt, i figure it's as far fetched as any other utopia.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 17:08:58.679226+00 by: ebradway

meuon: You should have your fire chief do an inspection of your property to point out ways to reduce the risk of fire. Fortunately for you, I can't remember the last time Walden's Ridge had a real forest fire.

In the second week of the the Four Mile Fire last month, the City of Boulder announced a possible evacuation of homes in North Boulder. As preparation, they asked residents to do simple things like mow their lawns and put propane tanks in the front of the house, visible from the street. Lots of little things like this can add up to much more effective fire safety.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 16:40:07.271226+00 by: Dan Lyke

I don't have the time to find and watch the video, but in the MeFi thread Gary says:

In the Olberman video he mentions how they had a fire in his son's house three years ago and the fire chief waived the fee until the next day. So there goes the theory that he would learn his lesson if the fire department showed some mercy. After the first round of articles, I don't believe for a second that he forgot. He thinks it's a $75 house saving fee, not a contribution for the public good.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 15:17:49.983226+00 by: Dan Lyke

The proposal that Dave linked to says that some regions of that county have an "owner pays for response" system, that the fire departments charge $500 per incident, and that they have no legal mechanism for collecting payment so they get about 50% payment.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 14:50:11.551226+00 by: m

Exurban and rural life is different than urban or suburban living. Like meuon I have little access to Fire Fighters. There are voluteers, but no municipal water supply, and hence no hydrants. A fire truck could fill up at my pond, albeit far too slowly. A fire that gets beyond 20lb CO2 extinguishers size is the end of my log house. But the quiet, peace and solitude is worth the risk as well as the exorbitant fire insurance rates.

It is not just fire, but police, school, library and other services are purchased from a nearby town through our town so they are not paid individually. But I know of areas where some services are on a individually purchased basis.

Some towns have taken to charging for car accidents and fires. Sometimes insurance will pay, other times the owner pays.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 12:08:30.723226+00 by: meuon

Agreed. Says the man whome has been told by Walden's Ridge Emergency Services that they'd have to just let our house burn as they could not reach it from the street and they could not pump water that high. And yeah, I still give them some money most years.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 10:50:54.363226+00 by: DaveP [edit history]

It's worth reading Zenon's comments in the MeFi thread - actual research was done:

comment 1 and comment 2 in which he points out the proposal for county-wide fire services, and that it'd cost $116.18 per house per year.

But in general, the comments in that thread are exactly why I can only tolerate MeFi for a month or two every couple years.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 09:46:41.339226+00 by: andylyke

Hear, hear!! Well said, Dan

#Comment Re: made: 2010-10-05 00:00:20.315226+00 by: Larry Burton

standing and applauding