Monday, October 18, 2010

Paying for (Fire) Service

This is my response to this news story:

Here's my paraphrase, for those who don't feel like clicking the link:
Guy lives in a rural area. Said area does not have its own fire dept. Neighboring town allows surrounding rural residents to use their fire dept, if they pay an annual fee of $75. Guy "forgets" to pay. His house catches fire. He calls 911. Dispatcher informs him the fire dept will not be responding since he didn't pay for fire service. Fire spreads to neighbors house. Neighbor had paid for fire service. Neighbor calls 911. Fire dept responds and puts out fire on neighbors property, but not on initial guy's property. Now this guy & the media have decided the firefighters are big meanies for not putting out his house fire.

As a firefighter's wife, this story hits home, and I feel compelled to respond to it.

#1 - fire service is very expensive. One used, but working firetruck will easily run upwards of $100k. But then you'll pay for more maintenance & repairs, which are costly, as there are not a huge number of companies who repair emergency vehicles. A new firetruck you'd be lucky to find for $300k. And that's just for the truck. Then you need to provide safety gear to protect the firefighters who will be responding. Oh, and don't forget the building this all needs to be housed in. And training, so your firefighters know what they're doing. And if you want them to also have EMT training, add on some more. And that's just to have a volunteer dept. If you want the reliability of having a paid fire service, don't forget to add on salaries & benefits. The salaries aren't much (FireMan's hourly wage isn't even in the double digits), but they still have to be paid.

#2 - somebody has to pay for said expensive fire service. In the neighboring town it was paid by the taxes of the residents. Since the rural area was outside of the taxable limits of the town, the town chose to graciously extend their fire service to the surrounding area, provided the citizens pay an annual fee of $75 to help off-set costs. That alone was a decision the town's leaders never had to make. They could have, reasonably, refused the neighboring areas to use their fire service. I say reasonably because one truck & crew headed out of town takes said crew away from the tax-paying citizens of the town.

#3 - Mr. Cranick didn't pay the fee for fire service this year. This is a fact which he admits. Maybe Mr. Cranick really did forget. Maybe he decided he'd rather keep his $75 instead of pay it, on the chance that his house wouldn't catch fire. I guess maybe he forgot. We all have those moments, right? But considering the town has had this fee for over 20 years, I just have a hard time believing that he paid it for the past however many years, and the year his house catches fire he just forgot. Whatever. Either way, he didn't pay it.
We've seen this mentality again & again in our area. Fire levies routinely fail. I've actually heard people say that they don't vote for fire levies because they don't think we need the existing fire service. Not voting against increasing the fire dept, they vote against keeping the level of protection they have.
I've also seen victims of house fires & other tragedies rally behind their first responders and fight to get them the money they need.
Fire Service, like many others, is one of those things that no one wants to pay for until it affects them directly. The only problem is that if you wait until then to decide to pay, it's too late. This type of service has to be kept up 24-7 in order to be effective to the greatest number of citizens. And that can't be done without... money. Money that has to come from somewhere.

#4 - the responding firefighters were following orders. Regardless of whether or not you agree with those orders, take it up with the Chief & the leaders of the town. In the fire service, rules & following orders saves lives. To villify the responding firefighters is ridiculous.

#5 - no one's life was in imminent danger. Mr. Cranick had notified the dispatcher that all residents were out of the building.

#6 - firefighter's hate watching buildings burn. Being married to a firefighter, and spending enough time around a number of firefighters, I can all but guarantee that they hated letting that building burn. Running into a burning building is in their blood, and to just sit & let it burn... yeah, I can all but guarantee they didn't want to. But not only were they following orders, they also probably knew (or found out shortly thereafter) that the homeowner hadn't paid for their services. Be honest: how many of you would continue at your jobs if the people you worked for "forgot" to pay you? Honestly? Now, what if doing your job also put your life on the line? But the people you worked for "forgot" to pay you? Be honest........    I didn't think so.

#7 - stop blaming somebody else, and accept responsibility for your own actions. I am so sick of this part of our current culture. It seems like no one accepts responsibility anymore. Mr. Cranick chose not forgot to pay the fee for fire service. It was his responsibility as a homeowner to make sure it was paid. He didn't pay it. That means the lack of response by the fire department is his fault. No one else's. His. Just because something bad happened to you, doesn't mean you get to pass of your responsibility and blame someone else.
By the comments of read on several news stories about this situation, I am gathering I'm in the minority. Why, I'm not sure. But this is my blog, and so this is my two cents on the subject.

1 comment:

Brittany said...

I do agree with you. However, I think there should be a policy in place there that basically says, you forget to pay your fee for a period and we are called to respond to a fire there (or even if you just decide to pay it a month late, whatever), it will cost an additional $75 a month for each month it is over due. For example, if the payment is due January 1st, and a person doesn't pay it. Their house catches on fire October 1st, they can pay $750 to reinstate their fire services. Because in the actual scenario, if they had said okay, we'll charge you $75 and fight the fire, it isn't fair to the people who had paid their money on time. Sure, people forgot, don't have the money, etc. I get that. But at the same time, the fire department could make a ton of money off the late payers. And you aren't punishing the people who pay on time by letting the late or non payers, pay their $75 fee late. I'm actually not sure if I'm making any sense at all since the radio keeps going off at work and interrupting me.

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