South Fulton Firefighters Let House Burn:Unpaid Obion County Fine
Gene Cranick's Rural Tennesse Home Burns To The Ground Because Of Unpaid $75 Fine
Gene Cranick, a homeowner in Obion County in Tennessee, watched helplessly as his house burned to the ground - his 911 call went unheeded because of an unpaid $75 Fire services fee, charged to people living outside county limits.
"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 the fire 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.
The South Fulton Fire department did ultimately respond but only to prevent a neighbor's home that was being threatened - the fire fighters allowed the Cranwick home to burn to the ground.
The mayor of South Fulton defended the actions of the fire department.
Mayor David Crocker says that's just city policy.
"Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't," Crocker says.
Paulette Cranick said they had been away and forgot to pay the fee this year but have paid it in years past. The Cranicks have lived on the farm for 40 years, 21 of them in the modular home that burned.
The family has coverage with Farm Bureau Insurance through local agent, Josh Simmons, who raced to the scene of the fire as soon as he learned about it. Simmons says the insurance company would not refuse or reduce payouts on the fire loss just because the fee has not been paid. Neither Cranick nor Simmons would confirm the amount of the policy.
"It's not enough to rebuild but it's better than nothing at all," said Paulette Cranick.
Meanwhile, the Obion Country Budget Committee has decided to expand its subscription only fire service by passing an agreement,
“... to give all communities in the county the option of paying a subscription” to purchase fire service — essentially expanding the service that stood by and watched as the Cranick family’s home burned to the ground
The fire chief of Union City, Kelly Edmison says subscription only fire services for rural communities are not the most effective was to provide emergency services.
It's not the best solution. Without a doubt the best option is a true fire tax.
It eliminates this having 911 or whoever to check to say are they covered or not covered? The last thing a firefighter wants to do is to not be able to help when they like to," said Edmison.
In fact, a 2008 study by the county shows that a 0.13% increase in property tax would pay for fire services for everyone, including rural communities. (see pdf).