The big question today in Tennessee is whether or not libertarian fire services should be an option. Last week firefighters watched a house burn because the owners had neglected to pay the 75$ annual subscription fee for fire protection. The optional aspect of fire coverage comes from the fact that the property that burnt down is not within the city limits where the citizens automatically pay for fire protection with their taxes, its a rural property outside the city that provides users outside South Fulton with the option to ‘opt in’ to rural fire service by paying a 75$ annual subscription. In this case the property owner hadn’t done so. Thus leading to the scene wherein the firefighters were on site to protect the neighbours but did nothing to protect the owners.
What do you think? Should there a be a good Samaritan clause? Or is the fire department and town right to let the place burn? A debate has been rageing on the Internet about whether the city was right to let the house burn or not. What do you think?
The situation is this: The city of South Fulton’s fire department, until a few years ago, would not respond to any fires outside of the city limits — which is to say, the city limited its jurisdiction to the city itself, and to city taxpayers. A reasonable position. Then, a few years ago, a fire broke out in a rural area that was not covered bythe city fire department, and the city authorities felt bad about not being able to do anything to help. So they began to offer an opt-in service, for the very reasonable price of $75 a year. Which is to say: They greatly expanded the range of services they offer. The rural homeowners were, collectively, better off, rather than worse off. Before the opt-in program, they had no access to afire department. Now they do.
And, for their trouble, the South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before. The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates — and the problems they create for themselves are their own. These free-riders have no more right to South Fulton’s firefighting services than people in Muleshoe, Texas, have to those of NYPD detectives.
Vowell explained that the property owner was not a paying member of the rural fire subscription service offered to county residents by the City of South Fulton. He said as per city policy, established by city ordinance, the call was declined and the city’s fire department could not respond.
“I have no problem with the way any of my people handled the situation. They did what they were supposed to do,” he said. “It’s a regrettable situation any time something like this happens.”
He said the South Fulton Fire Department did respond to a request to protect the property of the adjacent property owner, who is a member of the rural fire subscription service.
Vowell said county residents do not have guaranteed fire service since there is no countywide fire department to cover rural areas, but many municipalities offer rural fire coverage to residents in specified coverage areas for a nominal annual fee. South Fulton’s fee is $75.
However, Vowell said residents in those rural areas cannot be forced to pay the fee and it’s their decision whether to accept the coverage.
Vowell said people always think they will never be in a situation where they will need rural fire protection, but he said City of South Fulton personnel actually go above and beyond in trying to offer the service. He said the city mails out notices to customers in the specified rural coverage area, with coverage running from July 1 of one year to July 1 the next year.
At the end of the enrollment month of July, the city goes a step further and makes phone calls to rural residents who have not responded to the mail-out.
“These folks were called and notified,” Vowell said. “I want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to get it and be aware it’s available. It’s been there for 20 years, but it’s very important to follow up.”
Mayor Crocker added, “It’s my understanding with talking with the firefighters that these folks had received their bill and they had also contacted them by phone.”