Wednesday, October 06, 2010
A Tennessee family lost its home last week as firefighters watched it burn to the ground with three dogs and a cat inside, along with everything they owned. The rural community of Obion County charges an annual $75 fee for fire protection outside the South Fulton city limits, which the owners had not paid.
Homeowner Gene Cranick said, "I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong."
The firefighters refused to respond to several 911 calls, although Cranick offered to pay all costs if they would save his house, and only came to the scene when the field of a neighbor, who had paid his fee, caught fire.
Cranick begged the fire chief to make an exception and save his home, but the chief said, "The city manager will make a statement in the morning and ya'll can see him in his office." The town's mayor sided with the fire department saying, "Anybody that's not in the city limits of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't."
Friends and neighbors said it's a cruel and dangerous city policy, but Mr. Cranick doesn't blame the firefighters themselves, only the people in charge. "They're doing their job. They're doing what they are told to do. It's not their fault," he said. I beg to differ.
Small bureaucratic minds believe that if they make an exception, the rules become meaningless and nobody will pay the fee. I would like to think that most people are basically good when they follow their conscience, but a mindless adherence to inhumane policies is a slippery slope. The Holocaust should have taught us that.
(I don't make the rules; I just work here. I'm just following orders. It's not my problem. It's not my fault.)
I believe that we do have a responsibility to help others when we can. It's unconscionable that firefighters, generally perceived as heroic, even checked their ledgers when the 911 call came in to see if the caller had paid his fee, and even more unforgivable in tough economic times when $75 could buy a family's groceries for a few days. I wonder if we are devolving as a species.