Will fire services soon be luxuries available to just the top 1%?

For the second time in a little over a year in Tennessee – firefighters sat and watched a house burn down. When her house caught fire – Tennessee homeowner Vicky Bell called 9-1-1 – but when firefighters arrived they parked their trucks away from the fire – and just watched the flames consume Vicky’s home.


Because Vicky failed to pay the $75 dollar fire subscription fee. That’s a new policy in several communities in Tennessee – called “pay for spray” – homeowners now have to pay an annual fee to receive protection from the fire department – what used to be part of the commons – a free service paid for by all of us through our tax dollars. As the Mayor of the city – David Crocker – said, defending the policy, “There's no way to go to every fire and keep up the manpower, the equipment, and just the funding for the fire department."

I guess police and fire services will soon be luxuries available to just the top 1%.


strikerfired's picture
strikerfired 12 years 28 weeks ago

Budgets must matter.

Maxrot's picture
Maxrot 12 years 28 weeks ago

For those that believe that in a "free market" society will allow those in poverty to rise above their station, I assert they don't understand history, at best their understanding of it is limited to the last couple of hundred years. The fact of the matter is, the "free market" is creating the foundations for a new feudal society ruled by immortal corporations instead of dynastic kingdoms. Executives and board members of today are the counterparts to courtiers of the dark ages. So long as we do not finance our government with progressive taxation and trade tariffs, we will end up paying far more to private corporations for the services provided by government. The costs will be far higher, and the service will be worse then what is currently administered by our government. Yes there will be people who are born into poverty now that will rise above, but it will in no way be dependent upon how hard they work, but more so it will rely on beating the odds and being lucky and being in the right place at the right time... which no one can control.

Basically the case is that those that think they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps, have no idea that the government is providing the boots in the first place. Paying our taxes is the way that government manufactures the boots... simple as that.

ARTH's picture
ARTH 12 years 28 weeks ago

In these instances the communities were lucky. Apparently, the fires were contained, even as the homes were burnt doen. But this is merely an abboration. In most cases of building fires, the fire would spread to adjacent buildings or woods close to it. What would they do in Tennesee should that happen?
The other strange aspect of this story that in spite of them not doing anything because of the unpaid fee, the fire department was still called and still showed up, opposite the house without acting on the danger to the general welfare.

If this was really about money, then it would be far more sensible for the Fire Department to remain in the station and not bother to show up. Even showing up for a fire must cost something. Fighting itprobably more. What is going on here?

I suspect that the Fire Department trucks were there in case the fire was not containable to the structure and in such an instance, it would have to act. But now it would cost more money, still without the fee, because rather than containing the fire at an earlier stage, it would now be blazing out of control. Not to mention the property and vegitation damage and potentially human casualties as well.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 12 years 28 weeks ago

In fact, lots of corporations have gotten their start and assistance from the government. Corporations have no problem using the government "bootstrap" and then continue on with subsidies or other corporate welfare programs.

Corporations are also a big reason why government entities tend to become inefficient because, after getting government handouts, they go on to steal from the taxpayers by imaginative or just downright criminal exploits...like those who steal from Medicare and Medicaid...the doctors or their medical groups, the insurance groups, and the pharmaceuticals, etc. who makes false claims by charging for procedures, services, and medications that didn't happen...or overcharging for those that did.

And then the scamster stockholders, who expect, and put a great deal of pressure on the CEOs to perform (maximize their profits), turn right around and try to blame the 99%. The CEOs, and other corporate executives perform to the tune of the demands of the top shareholders but they also have vested interests, like lots of money and perks, in making their top shareholders happy (ie: rich and powerful).

The scamster stockholders are largely the top 1% but includes the top 10%. Get over the idea that "the stockholders" are "the people"...inferring that even the lowliest creature is an investor... who have invested in, and stands to gain from the shrewd and wiley bastions of corporate greed. That lowly 90 percent have had their 401k, and other long term "investments", pillaged by the top percent who were trying to convince us all that we should invest for the long term...for our retirements...yet they, themselves, were playing for the short term and stealing our "long term investments" from right out of our accounts.

Another part of where the big drain on taxpayer's money happens is when corporations buy influence in Congress...wins the bids for major projects...then goes into overruns..over and over again....without barely a whimper from our bought off politicians and "overseers".

Corporations and their major shareholders are the criminals who expect handouts from the government, then expect huge tax breaks, then try to make it look like our government is at fault for the last little bit of controls they still have. Even when the government is bought off by these criminals they still shift the blame onto the little bit of government that is hanging on to actually working for the people.

I watched that 60 minutes program "Prosecuting Wall Street" with the two whistleblowers. Great story!


historywriter's picture
historywriter 12 years 28 weeks ago

I do not know what you mean by "budgets must matter," but if you are saying they matter more than people, that's a callous and inhumane position. This is something of a throwback to the 18th and 19th century when people had to insure their houses and the insurance companies had their own fire fighters. I was horrified when I read that years ago. Most houses probably burned, not only because of lack of fire insurance, but because of the difficulty of getting to fires quickly.

Everytime I see something like this, I wonder what kind of country we have become. This is not in our tradition. This is not what we believe or think should happen. It's disgraceful

Tom Scharf's picture
Tom Scharf 12 years 28 weeks ago

This kind of thing is a fine idea. In fact, I suggest we extend it to the Police and the military too, with one caveat: THE FEE MUST BE A PERCENTAGE OF EACH PERSON'S NET WORTH! After all, shouldn't the fee reflect the value of that which is being protected? The poor and working class hardly have property worth protecting, and their lives would hardly change if the U.S. were taken over by China or Russia, so shouldn't the wealthy have to pay a fee for protection by our cops & soldiers? They are the one's getting the real benefit.

For those of you who are sarcastically challenged, this is meant as satire, so hold your flames.

Cliff Schrock's picture
Cliff Schrock 12 years 28 weeks ago

It is unconscionablethat the Firemen would stand by and watch the house burn. This is surely a symptom of example set by the upper class and 1% wherein greed and wealth trump all other considerations of human compassion and goodwill toward man. The loss is on all sides: the person who loses their home, the firemen who will have to live with it, the Mayor and county residents who will also if they have any conscience at all will carry this travesty to their graves.

bewildered1's picture
bewildered1 12 years 28 weeks ago

This is really the same thing that you have everywhere. Where I live, parts of the city partially surround unincorporated areas of the county. The city provides no services to those areas, even if city fire and police are more readily available, which is normally the case. Now the city contracts with the sheriffs department for service, but even though the city police cars are manned by deputy sheriffs, calls in the unincorporated areas are handled by deputies assigned to the county station only. This is in San Bernardino CA.

People living ouside the city limits enjoy benefits, economic benefits as the regulations within the city are quite different than the county. I suppose they factor that in every time they fight incorporation into the city.

toad6147's picture
toad6147 12 years 28 weeks ago

Which means what exactly? BTW, when we toured Charleston our guide pointed out medallions on the front of houses that were signs to the fire department that the home was covered by fire protection. If you didn't have insurance they would sell it to you on the spot as your house burned and the fire men awaited the business transaction.

bewildered1's picture
bewildered1 12 years 28 weeks ago

I believe that applied to the times when they had multiple fire departments and you subscribed with one for service.

bewildered1's picture
bewildered1 12 years 28 weeks ago

It appears from the above comments, what we need is a federal fire service responsible for all jurisdictions. That way you wouldn't have corporate jurisdictions critized for not servicing non-taxed/non-paying unincorporated areas. I suspect, that what we have here is a bunch of Hamiltonians, certainly no Jeffersonians.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 12 years 28 weeks ago

I suspect Mayor Crocker would support the idea that if Exxon Mobil pays zero fed. tax then, "We The 99%," should not have to pay for the manpower and military equipment necessary to protect their mideast oil interests.

Bible belt Christmas spirit????

PhilipHenderson's picture
PhilipHenderson 12 years 28 weeks ago

How did the firefighters feel? The worst part of this story is the effect on the firefighters who wanted to help but were ordered to let the home burn by their captain. Imagine the effect on morale for the entire department staff. The firefighters must be very conflicted. They work best when there is cohesion where every firefighter knows that he will be supported 100% by every other person on the force. Now there is suspicion. Now there is a wedge. It would not matter if the captain told them that if it were his call he would help, but he is only following orders. Everyone of the firefighters were thinking, I want to do my job. Why can't I do what is right? What does money have to do with this? I was trained and I am prepared to dose this fire. Why am I merely standing here while the homeowner is in tears? The morale of the entire firefighting force is damaged. I would see that the firefighters received grief counseling after this event.

Alternatively, the fire fighters do not care at all. To them this is just a job. Do what the captain says, stay safe and make certain that no one gets hurt. We don't care if your home burns, it is not my home or my relative’s home. You should have paid your fee. It is your own fault. So what if I am here and have no other place to go. I could easily recue your home, but hey, what the heck. Captain says do nothing. I am just following orders. If this is how the fire fighters feel then all is lost already. I prefer to believe that they are flesh and blood real people who care about others. I think the fire fighters, all of them, those on the premises and everyone in the department must feel that they have let people down. They have betrayed their trust.

The fire fighters are not our enemy. It is the crazy politicians who made them feel they would lose their jobs if they helped the person just because he did not pay. I expect those politicians will discover when they die that they are not where they had hoped to be. I expect it will be hot for them. Condolences to the family who lost their home. In addition, condolences to the fire fighter who feared that by doing what is morally right they would have lost their employment.

Philip Henderson, Ethical Magician

RepubliCult's picture
RepubliCult 12 years 28 weeks ago

It's a pity the "Equal Protection" clause of the Constitution means nothing to the anti-Washington anti-Northerner people in the Red Welfare State of Tennessee. And of course the gang of 5 Supreme Courtesans would agree. So, it is back to square one for one family's Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.

Oh but some believe they should be comforted in knowing this family has just as much chance of becoming billionaire tycoons as anyone else in America, because the American Dream is alive, and well. For them I'd say it's a little too "well done".

How about this: No Federal dollars for any state that refuses to provide fire protection services for all its citizens. Put that in your firehose and smoke it, Mayor Crocker.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 12 years 28 weeks ago

My house burned down, when I was a kid, and we were very lucky to get out alive. It is a terrible thing and I had nightmares for many years. The community came together and pitched in and helped us rebuild. The small communities in the 50s were often more benevolent and people oriented.

I wonder how much of that home in Tennessee was actually owned by the bank. It is terrible that she lost her home..and probably all of her possessions but we just don't know the entire picture here.

If the home was still owned by the bank, and she was making mortgage payments to the bank, then let them foreclose and let them have the ashes. If the bank held the mortgage then the fire department only managed to let the bank's investment burn. Of course, the "home owner" may have had a lot invested herself...or maybe she owned it outright....do we know if she had insurance? Probably not...but there is so little detail we know about this.

Wasn't there something in the news, recently, about a lot of vacant, bank owned homes going up in flames? Maybe someone is trying to send a message to the banks. Wasn't it Detroit that had an awful lot of vacant homes that were torched? I've heard of a common practice by many who have been evicted to actually gut the houses before they left. Yeah, I guess voting is more "civil"...if only it worked...but since the whole system is corrupt...it just won't make any difference at all whether you vote or not. Even the Democrats are owned by Wall Street. And many politicians, both Republican and Democrats, are being investigated for widespread inside trading. And I hear Nancy Palosi is right up there with the rest of them being investigated.

One thing stands brazenly clear...privatization is bad! bad! bad! We need a strong and honest government that will do what they are supposed to do ...protect the majority of the people from the rapacious capitalist wolves. And that won't be done by just voting for the same old politicians that two-timed us on behalf of those wolves.

I believe that the rapacious privatization mentality will eventually pounce upon those who held such selfish and hateful convictions. It will come back to bite them!!!

I believe it will come, if there is not a violent revolution first, in the form of an natural epidemic, the old terrorist, Mother Nature, herself that will rapidly spread largely because of the authorities inability to control it....largely because of the lack of affordable medical care to all.

People who can't afford it, which will be (which are already) unable or unwilling to go to seek medical care in the seminal stages of an epidemic...worsening the spread. The authorities will not be able to control it...and it will result in a massive die off...including the wealthy who become infected by the hordes of diseased riff-raff. They'll consider a defensive posture, at first, of extermination of the masses.

Sleep tight! Pleasant dreams!

windergal's picture
windergal 12 years 28 weeks ago

Here we go again with the conservatives idea of "you can't pay, too bad, you're on your own". The last time I heard about a house burning down in Tennessee in similar circumstances, the family's neighbor called up the county clerk and tried to give them a credit card so that the firefighters that were watching the house burn would act but it was either too late or the clerk wouldn't take the payment. Anyway, I think 2 familly dogs perished in the house that burnt to the ground. The firefighters that were not allowed to act were sick about it. They are just instructed to stand there and make sure the fire doesn't spread to any of the paying citizens homes. I didn't think such a thing could happen in our America but I'm afraid we haven't seen nothin' yet.

jkh6148's picture
jkh6148 12 years 28 weeks ago

I predicted something like this back in the 80s when all the good paying working class industrial jobs started leaving out of the country. When those jobs leave the country the tax money leaves with them. Local, state, and federal governments would need to raise fees on everything and create new ones to get the money they need to operate. But for the most part it isnt the fault of the government administrators, they are working/middle class people who want to protect and to serve. It is the fault of capitalism moving the jobs out of the country.

The rich republican capitalists do not like paying a penny toward anything that benefits the poor/working/middle classes, that they perceive as being lazy and a drain on their wallets. AND will continue to find ways to keep the people down, under their thumbs

chazzz77's picture
chazzz77 12 years 28 weeks ago

It should be mandatory to have insurance or pay a fine.But the firemen were wrong I would not call them men they remind me of the Nazis

Papachuck111's picture
Papachuck111 12 years 28 weeks ago

We can pay for causing fires in countries we invade and occupy, but not put out fires at home? Something is terribly wrong when firefighters sit and watch homes burn.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 12 years 28 weeks ago

Reply to #2

This bugged me all night.....I agree budgets are important, too, which is precisely why elected reps. should never act irresponsibly by slashing revenue collection just to increase the wealth of the few who gain most of it by not working.

Somewhere somebody had to really work to provide much of this unearned income to the elite few. Who is supporting whom here?

jswood41's picture
jswood41 12 years 28 weeks ago

Those sorts of fees are little more than a cowardly politicians tax increse.

MailManRuss's picture
MailManRuss 12 years 28 weeks ago

So assuming this person had fire insurance, which is pretty much required of homeowners if they have any kind of mortgage on their property, does the insurance company go after the city for compensation because the city failed to provide fire protection services? Or is the homeowner held liable for any property damage because they didn't pay the stupid "pay for spray" fee? And I agree, why is this not part of the property tax? That's where funding for fire dept. services belongs.

MailManRuss's picture
MailManRuss 12 years 28 weeks ago

Thank you for actually explaining in simple yet sarcastic language the true reason for a PROGRESSIVE TAX RATE. The fact is that the wealthy DO use the services of the Commons and the resources of Government and have a greater amount to lose in the event of a disaster, such as fire or theft, that these people MUST pay a higher percentage of their wealth and income in the form of taxes. Unfortunately local governments have a tendency to charge FEES as opposed to TAXES and therefore, charge those with a lower income and net worth a higher percentage of their income for those services and resources. ( See Professor Hartmann, I do pay attention in class... ie. listening to your show)

PLSzymeczek's picture
PLSzymeczek 12 years 28 weeks ago

I just reread Sinclair Lewis' excellent It Can't Happen Here and recommend that others do so as well.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 12 years 28 weeks ago

I am wondering if the local businesses, like banks, factories, apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings, etc.....pay the fire departments for their services. Do they pay in advance like they demand of homeowners...or do they get a free ride? If Bank of America had not paid the fire department fees...would the fire department let Bank of America burn to the ground? It would be fantastic if anyone knows if these businesses have to pay and if there were even any cases where the fire department put out a fire for a business even though they did not pre-pay the fire department.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 12 years 28 weeks ago

If people were still inside a burning home...would the fire departments still not try to rescue those inside because the homeowner did not pre-pay for these fire department fees?

Would we not be able to indict the Fire Chiefs for negligible homicide?

It used to be that of all professions, fire fighters were looked up to and viewed as heroes...someone we most trusted. Obviously, politicians, lawyers, banksters, and then the police were usually the worst in this category.

Looks like fire departments, in Tennessee anyway, are starting to earn their way into the most hated and untrusted category. It is unfortunate that the actual firemen, who have their orders to just stand there, are dragged into the mire. But didn't the Nuremberg Trials establish that "just taking orders" is not an excuse. Like law enforcement says "ignorance of the law is no excuse"? Maybe the police chiefs know that it is more profitable to be privatized and a CEO rather than a public employee so they are doing everything they can to wreck the "government" institutional image so that they can create a totally privatized organization that they control as a highly compensated CEO. The "protection racket" is alive and well in the US. Won't be long until the fire chiefs will be going out and committing arson on those properties that don't pay up.

The US is becoming just like Russia, that listened to the capitalists, like Goldman Sachs, making a few lucky and conniving devils, formally in the public sectors, very, very wealthy and all the rest of the population extremely destitute. Many Russians believe that they were much better off under Communism.

Maybe we should all tell our capitalist privateers that if they can play that game then so can we. Unless the privateers pay each of us citizens a fee, we will not be willing to be witnesses or to testify on their behalf in the event of some "crime" committed against them. If a bank is robbed, no one, except those receiving a pre-paid fee by the bank, will be willing to be witnesses and/or to testify on behalf of the bank. This would be taking the libertarian ideals to it's max...Oh! So you thought it was fair for you rich business owners to squeeze the little guy? So, why doesn't the little guy squeeze back? If the businesses can't be "good citizens" doing their part...then neither can the citizens. To hell with these greedy hypocrite capitalist pigs! We can play their game too!

Alan Lunn's picture
Alan Lunn 12 years 28 weeks ago

Fire service only available to those who pay no taxes. This is the big privatization scam of our time. Our government is becoming like that of Nairobi where there is no fire department. That government is utterly corrupt and when something burns down, oh well, oh well, oh well. If your goods are destroyed, what little you have, you just move to the Kibera slum. And if that burns down (1 million people), problem solved.

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