OK, what do you guys think about the firefighters letting this guy's house burn down?

I've been reading all kinds of outrage on the internet over this story. A brief summation: Guy lives in a county where they have no fire service. A nearby municipality offers fire protection to individuals who live outside of their jurisdiction, for a $75 annual fee. This guy didn't pay it, and when his house caught fire, the fire department came to ensure the fire didn't spread outside the property line, but didn't attempt to put it out.

I've seen a lot of people say that the firefighters should have put the fire out anyway, and I've seen a lot of people say maybe they didn't have an obligation to, but it shows that this type of system is fucked up and shouldn't be allowed.

I personally don't agree with either stance. I think the firefighters were in the right. It's a shame that the guy's house burned down, but it wasn't their fault. Given the system that exists it's the only logical thing to do. If they allow free riders, the whole system risks collapsing.

As far as the system existing, well, I probably wouldn't buy property in a county with no fire protection, but I acknowledge that it's a person's right to do so, if they choose. This guy chose to buy his house there, and he chose not to pay the fee. It's his risk, he took the gamble and he lost. It sucks, but it's a natural consequence that he was aware of when he made his choice. I think an adult who owns property is capable of making that choice and living with those consequences.

What do y'all think?

Comments

No problem for me. You stated it all as I see it.

I do have a problem with the country though. Just assess another $75 in tax and provide universal Fire Protection. It is actually better in the long run for the county. Libertarian paradise I guess is another name for crap.

I think the firefighters are totally wrong. They turned up and had the means to put the fire out and yet choose to do nothing and make sure it didn't spread. That kind of thing used to happen in London, in ye olden days, when firefighters would only put out buildings which carried a firefighters mark and leave everything else to burn. It didn't last too long before they became a national service instead.

As to what they should have done, it's simple. Put the fire out.

Then they should have billed him afterwards for the time and expenses in the firefighters attending. Do that once or twice and soon everybody takes out insurance or starts paying taxes towards a fire service everyone uses.

I'm not sure that would work, CIAS. The cost of fighting a fire in rural areas is pretty high...chances are very few people would actually be able to pay it, and then what is the fire department going to to? And then when people see that the fire department will put out the fire and you don't really have to pay, you get a freeloader problem.

CIAS I have to agree with Sarah again. In the system they set up which stinks they did what was best for the long term.

But they really should just increase the local taxes and have full coverage. The current system stinks.

Quote Originally posted by CatInASuit View post
I think the firefighters are totally wrong. They turned up and had the means to put the fire out and yet choose to do nothing and make sure it didn't spread. That kind of thing used to happen in London, in ye olden days, when firefighters would only put out buildings which carried a firefighters mark and leave everything else to burn. It didn't last too long before they became a national service instead.

As to what they should have done, it's simple. Put the fire out.

Then they should have billed him afterwards for the time and expenses in the firefighters attending. Do that once or twice and soon everybody takes out insurance or starts paying taxes towards a fire service everyone uses.
This is my stance as well. Since he didn't pay ahead of time, put the fire out and charge him three times what the yearly cost would have been (which would have come out to $225). Hardly an onerous cost. I doubt the majority of people are going to take the gamble of not paying, but if they do then start raising the prices of coming out to someone who hasn't paid.

The firefighters stood around pretty uselessly while my house burned down, as they'd failed to check the hydrant like they were supposed to and it had no water and they didn't have a water truck. Having your house burn is such a horrific experience that I cannot advocate letting anyone's house burn down just to guard against "freeloaders". It's not like having your car wrecked. It is a massive, destructive force that eats up everything you own and is a danger to lives as well as neighboring property. For safety and basic human decency, it has to be put out.

Somehow, the thought of people having their houses burned down and being freeloaders doesn't really fit together.

What you are suggesting is that if the fire service does it once, then everyone will sto paying and expect it for free. It rarely works out like that and people will still contribute towards a fire service. Otherwise, no more fire service and I imagine peole would be very nervous should that happen.

If they can't pay it all they can certainly pay towards it. Perhaps instead of taking them for everything, they retroactively charge them the $75 for the insurance.

Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
CIAS I have to agree with Sarah again. In the system they set up which stinks they did what was best for the long term.

But they really should just increase the local taxes and have full coverage. The current system stinks.
...and they are not going to change the system until something like this happens.

It's the difference between doing what they were paid to do and doing what was right. It is not what is best for the long term. What happens if someone's insurance gets delayed and their house burns down because the Firefighters decide its not right?

I totally agree in the increase in taxes would be best, but that doesn't change the actions of this group of people.

Zuul, I understand your particular experience though I can't obviously directly relate to it but on average most of the times the houses are not saved anyway. In the town I grew up in almost no house that was burning was saved by the volunteer fire department. They actually mainly showed up for rescue and containment.

But again the obvious solution is just charge everyone to annual fee as part of their taxes and be done with it.

One clarification CIAS, In the US this is common outside of cities, "chief of the Hornbeak Volunteer Fire Department."

These are not paid employees and if you want protection either pay the annual fee or get the stupid system changed. These guys risk their lives for next to nothing. I think passing judgment on them is unfair as someone chose to save $75 a year. Dumb system, but within the system I will defend them and say blame the county.

I find it hard to fathom because it's just not something that would happen here, however it is a different system to what I'm used to, hence my puzzlement. I think perhaps they could have put out the fire and charged him a hefty fee thereafter. I wonder if there are other volunteer fire departments that do that.