Slow Burn

OK, let me get this straight.

A rural town in Tennessee charges a $75 annual fee, a.k.a a "fire subscription service," to homeowners. Those who pay the fee can get their fires put out by the local fire department. Those who don't, can't.

That by itself, on the surface, seems odd to me. But whatever---fees is the other "F-word" anymore.

Fees can be billed. They can also be late, but they can be collected after the fact.

Now here's what happened to a man in South Fulton, Tennessee.

As reported on, Gene Cranick's double-wide mobile home caught fire, but when firefighters responded, they protected the home of his neighbor instead---because the neighbor had paid the $75 fee and Cranick hadn't.

"I just forgot to pay my $75," Cranick told ABC News. "I did it last year, the year before. ... It slipped my mind."

The cost?

Cranick lost his home, all his possessions---and his three dogs and a cat.

Unconscionable, right?

"I have no problem with the way any of my people handled the situation. They did what they were supposed to do," South Fulton City Manager Jeff Vowell said.


A man loses his home, his possessions, and four pets---all over a delinquent $75 fee, and Vowell says he has no problem with it?

Cranick says he even told the 911 operator that he would pay whatever fee he needed to pony up, but he was rejected.

Now here's Vowell, with perhaps the Understatement of the Year.

"It's a regrettable situation any time something like this happens."

Regrettable? More like unfathomable.

And we wonder why this nation is becoming colder and colder and less human.

Payment arrangements couldn't have been made for the delinquent $75? You don't put out the fire THEN worry about the money?

Firefighters in South Fulton city are under orders to respond only to fire calls within their city limits, as well as to surrounding Obion County, but only to homes there where people have signed up for a fire subscription service.

First, what's this "fire subscription service"? Don't they collect taxes in South Fulton?

Cranick's son went to the fire station to complain and ended up clobbering the fire chief in the face, blackening his eye. Of course, the son was arrested and charged with assault.

If city manager Vowell can sleep at night, then he's the best cure for insomnia since sleeping pills.

Cranick has already spoken to ABC and MSNBC, so here's hoping public outrage over his story---and his dead pets---will amount to something for that poor man.


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