VIDEO: Firefighters Let Home Burn To Ground Because Owner Hadn’t Paid $75 Fee

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Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn’t paid a $75 fee.

Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat. 

“They could have been saved if they had put water on it, but they didn’t do it,” Cranick told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

The fire started when the Cranicks’ grandson was burning trash near the family home. As it grew out of control, the Cranicks called 911, but the fire department from the nearby city of South Fulton would not respond.

“We wasn’t on their list,” he said the operators told him.

Cranick, who lives outside the city limits, admits he “forgot” to pay the annual $75 fee. The county does not have a county-wide firefighting service, but South Fulton offers fire coverage to rural residents for a fee.

Cranick says he told the operator he would pay whatever is necessary to have the fire put out.

His offer wasn’t accepted, he said.

The fire fee policy dates back 20 or so years.

“Anybody that’s not inside the city limits of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don’t,” said South Fulton Mayor David Crocker.

The fire department’s decision to let the home burn was “incredibly irresponsible,” said the president of an association representing firefighters.

“Professional, career firefighters shouldn’t be forced to check a list before running out the door to see which homeowners have paid up,” Harold Schatisberger, International Association of Fire Fighters president, said in a statement. “They get in their trucks and go.”

Firefighters did eventually show up, but only to fight the fire on the neighboring property, whose owner had paid the fee.

“They put water out on the fence line out here. They never said nothing to me. Never acknowledged. They stood out here and watched it burn,” Cranick said.

South Fulton’s mayor said that the fire department can’t let homeowners pay the fee on the spot, because the only people who would pay would be those whose homes are on fire.

Cranick, who is now living in a trailer on his property, says his insurance policy will help cover some of his lost home.

“Insurance is going to pay for what money I had on the policy, looks like. But like everything else, I didn’t have enough.”

After the blaze, South Fulton police arrested one of Cranick’s sons, Timothy Allen Cranick, on an aggravated assault charge, according to WPSD-TV, an NBC station in Paducah, Ky.

Police told WPSD that the younger Cranick attacked Fire Chief David Wilds at the firehouse because he was upset his father’s house was allowed to burn.

WPSD-TV reported that Wilds was treated and released.

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(Source: MSNBC)




14 COMMENTS

  1. His local government voted against having a fire department. He should vote for politicians that favor raising taxes and supporting a fire department. Not having a fire department is a bit irresponsible (and expecting a different jurisdiction to use its tax money to put our fires in some other jurisdiction borders on theft).

  2. The responsible thing to do would have been to FIRST – PUT OUT THE FIRE, and then later to work out the jurisdictional and fee issues.
    This is just common sense!
    The article states they protected the neighbor’s house because he had paid the fee. If the neighbor/s had not paid the fee either, would they have let the whole block burn down?!?
    I would be curious to know if the firefighters at any point asked Mr. Cranick if there was anyone in the house, and, if there had been, if they would have acted any differently.

  3. The common sense thing would have been to pay the $75 when it was due. He decided not to pay, and he decided to take his chances. Cranick gambled and lost. In other articles, it was shown that if the FD puts the fire out first and then tries to collect the fees, well less than 50% of the people pay. I guess this will be a wake up call for any neighbors who have not paid yet.

  4. “its-me” #4 has a very good suggestion.

    I’m not sure if $50,000 is the appropriate amount for the fine, but the idea is an excellent one.

    BUT, for goodness sake… FIRST THINGS FIRST, – put out the fire!!!

  5. #1 … I don’t think rural has local government (maybe county or something, but they don’t provide these services). Fire departments are generally municipal … ie, city/town based.

    #2 … There aren’t blocks in the country. They watered the neighbors property line … that’s all.

    #3 … spot on.

    Fire departments need funding. Taxes, fees, something.

  6. Its_me, I’m glad I don’t work under you. You have some stench of justice. But as einOd said, the concept is true: the guy should be made to pay 3 or 4 hundred dollars.

  7. this whole thing sounds like midas sodom, not doing a chesed for another person

    i’m not saying the firefighters should be pushovers
    but imagine it if
    a doctor wouldn’t heal someone until he paid up and instead let him die
    a police man wouldn’t chase after a murderer until the victim’s family pays up

  8. On one level I am horrified at this tragedy, but I have to agree with the firefighters.

    If homeowners know they don’t have to pay for fire coverage unless they actually call for help, the fire department’s annual budget would be $75 times the number of calls they answer. OK, it would be a little higher, because some civic-minded folks would pay regardless of whether they’ve used the service, but that’s not enough to keep a fire department running.

    Do an internet search to see how many thousands of dollars each firefighter’s equipment(helmet, coat, pants, boots, gloves, air pack, radio, etc.) costs – and we’re not even talking about a fire truck. If people don’t pay, there won’t be a fire department.

  9. It is not acceptable that people eqipped to put out a fire just stood by and watched the house burn down.
    Compare with the service hatzolo organizations offer worldwide. Ribono Shel Olom – look at your nation Yisroel – they are rachamonim & gomlei chasodim – send them a geula shleimo soon.

  10. I can’t believe how cruel people can be! Just because someone didn’t pay a few dollars he should lose his entire house and everything in it?! Obviously, there should be some kind of consequence if he doesn’t pay – interest that adds up each month or whatever. (They don’t have to wait til somone’s house burns down to collect it either.) But nobody seems to care that somebody just lost practically everything they had because of this!
    Another point – $75 dollars may seem like a small fee – but let me tell you, coming from a family who is not the richest around, when you have many bills to pay, even $75 is sometimes hard to have. And they may have had to pay more immediate bills which may have seen more urgent to them at the time. I don’t know whether or not this was the case, but at least have a heart!

  11. It’s not that firemen didn’t want save THIS house because the owner didn’t pay $75. The problem is that if they would answer all calls without regard to whether the homeowner paid, very few homeowners would pay and the fire department would not have the funds to do their jobs so there would be no FD.

    Imagine if auto insurance was optional and people could sign up and just pay their regular premium AFTER they have an accident. How many people do you think would carry insurance if they knew they could get full coverage when and if they chas v’sholom need it? An insurance company cannot operate under these conditions (see: health care.)

    I don’t know why fire coverage isn’t a mandatory component of the property tax bill, but who am I to tell rural TN what to do? Barring that, I think the fire department should be able to put out all fires and then charge homeowners who hadn’t paid the annual fee a high (several thousand dollar) charge for services provided. This would eliminate the incentive to not pay and hope for service, and it would cover some of the costs of the service.