We Are All Gene Cranick

It’s been interesting to watch the story of the Tennessee house fire ricochet around the media — and morph and change in the process.

I wrote about the Cranick fire way back on Saturday. My post generated some interesting comments; since then the story has gone national and the narrative has changed as people search to identify the bad guy.

Is the bad guy the South Fulton FD, whose firefighters stood by as the Cranick house burned with their three dogs and cat inside (and would they have sat and watched as Cranick children burned alive inside the home, not just their pets? I wonder…)? Sweetening that perspective is the growing narrative that the Cranicks simply “forgot” to pay their $75 fire protection fee. This is a new embellishment: Last weekend, let me remind you, Gene Cranick told the media:

“I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene Cranick.

So now it’s that he “forgot”? Well, maybe he did. Who am I to say he didn’t?

Glenn Beck portrays the Cranick family as the bad guys , mocking them with a fake Southern accent for failing to pay the $75 fee and “sponging off your neighbor’s resources.” Cranick wanted something for nothing and that makes him a community parasite, says Beck. Now, we don’t know what Gene Cranick wanted — and anyway, even if it were true, there’s really no reason to be such an asshole to someone who just lost everything. Beck needs to tone it down a notch. (Yeah, I know, dream on.)

A commenter at ThinkProgress (I can’t find the link at the moment) blames right-wing conservative voters in Obion County for setting up such a flawed system to begin with. The commenter mentioned that a mere 13-cent property tax increase would have supplied fire services county-wide. I’m not sure where that property tax information came from or if it’s even true. As Mr. Beale pointed out when we discussed it this morning, if it’s true that’s probably 13-cents per $100 of home value. If the house is worth $100,000 that’s $130 added to your taxes just for fire protection. $75 is a much better deal and is probably more affordable to a lot more people in this poor, rural area.

And then we have the conservative National Review, which sees this incident as bad for Libertarianism because it shows what we Lefties have all been saying: Libertarianism lacks morality. Writes Daniel Foster:

I’m a conservative with fairly libertarian leanings, but this is a kind of government for which I would not sign up.

Well, duh. Libertarians worship a political philosophy which views selfishness as a virtue, remember? Yeah it’s all fun and games until someone’s house burns down as the firefighters sit there, hoses at the ready, to put out the neighbors’ house, should the fire spread. How do you like them apples? Apparently, we don’t like them at all.

I watch and read as all of this is being chewed over and find myself fascinated at the dynamic. This is just the latest story about failure of a government institution, yet much as the Righties would like to blame Big Bad Government they can’t, because this was a fee-pay fire service. And much as the Lefties would like to blame free market Libertarianism we really can’t because this wasn’t a privatized fire department, it was a public fire department providing service outside its basic service area for a fee.

So it’s all very interesting but a lot of it misses the point. The real lesson is the one I made on Saturday, which is that we are a nation of Gene Cranicks. Nationwide communities are shuttering services very intentionally, doing with shorter school weeks, less public transit, and fewer public safety services. So we should all look at this incident as a “teachable moment” about the public good, taxes, and public services. Whether you see Gene Cranick as a victim or a parasite, now would be a good time for us to discuss the role of government in our communitieis and how much we are willing to pay for it.

I have done lots of posts on communities like Colorado City which are slashing city services as budgets get ever tighter. I suspect that those voting to cut these services are people who don’t use them anyway.

I’ve mocked those in Nashville who claim it’s their “God-given right as a Metro taxpayer” to have as many trash carts as they want and suck up as much landfill space as they want, yet recoil in horror at a property tax increase or $35 fee for an extra cart. Sure we want the service, but we don’t want to pay for it! But give some single mom food stamps or put her kids in a Head Start program and that’s socialism! Heh, it’s always socialism when the goodies go to someone else, amiright?

These folks are Glenn Beck’s Gene Cranick: doing without because hey, the house isn’t on fire right now anyway, and maybe it never will be, right? Let’s just kick the can down the road and hopefully it will all work out. But inevitably they are the first to complain when the services they feel entitled to are no longer there.

Then we have the Left’s Gene Cranick, the guy who is the victim. The guy who “forgot” to pay his fee, who “forgot” to pay attention to this stuff. Hey he offered to pay the $75 while his house was burning. Why can’t we be all like bygones and stuff, right? They forget that paying the fee ahead of time helps maintain the system so it’s there when they — or their neighbors — need it. Maybe these folks need to speak up a little more and get a little more involved to make sure the infrastructure they want wasn’t classified as “government waste” by some Libertarian type while they were off doing something else.

Maybe these folks should make an effort to vote in midterm elections. Just sayin’.

You know, folks, I think we’ve reached a critical point here. We are starting understand the true consequences of our action and our inaction. We’re starting to get that we’re all in this together. Fires spread. Entire cities have been leveled by fires which started in just one home, then grew to consume one neighborhood after the other.

It’s the perfect metaphor for where we are. There are all sorts of fires: the uneducated kids from one neighborhood who become a burden on the entire community. Or the folks on Privilege Parkway who can afford to pay extra for trash collection and mowing grass: they see no problem with cutting the public works budget, do they? But guess who will be the first to complain when Unfortunate Avenue’s rat infestation spreads inside their gated community? You got it.

After 30 years of “trimming government waste” we’ve reached a point where we’ve redefined “waste.” Now waste is a five-day school week in some places. It’s food for a single mom, or a Head Start program for her kids. It’s any service we don’t directly use–or aren’t using right at the moment. Few stop to consider the indirect benefit we receive when others have access to them, even fewer are prudent enough to realize that the day may come when we will need those services too. These chickens will come home to roost, people. Yet so many folks have just checked out of the process completely. Fire protection? Meh. Schools? Our kids are grown!

People need to pay attention. Whether you see Gene Cranick as a victim or parasite, it doesn’t matter. Because we are all victims and we are all parasites. The fault, Horatio, is not in our politics but in ourselves. We’re selfish, every last one of us. It’s human nature. We want the services and don’t want to pay for them, not if we don’t have to. Or we don’t mind paying for them but we don’t want to show up at the public meeting or write our council person or Congress Critter to let them know.

We’re all Gene Cranick. We “forgot” to pay for our democracy, be it with our participation or with our money.

Let’s just hope the house doesn’t catch on fire.


Filed under taxes, Tennessee

42 responses to “We Are All Gene Cranick

  1. >One quibble. Sure, 75 is cheaper than 150, but most people pay their property taxes through their mortgage co, and really would notice a minor increase like that.That said, I still say, put out the fire, then bill the guy plus a whopping late fee. I also wonder if there was insurance, and I'd bet the insurance company would and could subrogate successfully against the county, outside their service area or not.

  2. >SB wrote:So we should all look at this incident as a "teachable moment" about the public good, taxes, and public services. Whether you see Gene Cranick as a victim or a parasite, now would be a good time for us to discuss the role of government in our communitieis and how much we are willing to pay for it.I've long suggested that we're long overdue for this discussion. We have an anti-tax group here who seems to be against any and all taxes, even though they claim otherwise. They have candidates sign "no tax" pledges to not raise taxes or fees which just strikes me as utterly foolish.Reagan's statement that "government isn't the solution, it's the problem" is the belief today and we're paying the price for it as a nation, as states and as cities.

  3. >I have made the unfortunate mistake of reading all the comments I can find on this story as it spreads around the media. Here's the comment I left on Gawker after folks all seemed to think that fire fighters had a moral obligation to fight fires no matter what:http://gawker.com/comment/30364720/I was, I guess in a more round about way trying to make the same point you are: we did this and we can't complain about it unless we are trying to fix it. And fixing it now I think means fixing the whole system. How did we teach a huge portion of our country to be so selfish and not understand how things like fire services work. It's really appalling how many commenters think that everyone is owed fire services but not one seems to grasp that this comes from taxes. It's "keep the government out of medicare" on a larger, grosser scale.

  4. >I don't pay my taxes through the mortgage. Mr. Beale doesn't.I don't know that this is true about what most people do. I do know in rural areas, property taxes are really low … and that $150 bill for *one service* is likely to be as much as the entire property tax assessment. You live in a rural area, Mack, you know what property taxes are like in East Jesus.But yes, of course the system is messed up. Lots of different options, they could put out the fire and assess a huge fee for being a non-subscribing customer. They could mandate fire coverage. They could raise taxes and have a countywide fire service instead of relying on South Fulton's. Sure, there were and are lots of better ways to handle this.

  5. >Well, having lived in west and north bumf*ck, really low is still in the grand a year neighborhood. Paying for a tanker truck (if there aren't water lines in the area) and a pumper and an ambulance costs an enormous chunk of change for a rural area even when they get bought over several years. That $75 or $150 a year fee per home take a while to mount up to the point where they can buy a six-figure ambulance, much less the clothing and axes and hoses and tanks and masks, etc. It really requires more than small towns and rural areas can handle. And, as has been pointed out, nobody wants to pay for the full bill.

  6. >I'll lay aside the morality of fighting the fire, especially considering that animals died as fire fighters stood idly by, and just remark that Cranick will probably have an impact on the public welfare state significantly greater than $75 now that he's lost everything in a fire.

  7. >It really requires more than small towns and rural areas can handle. And, as has been pointed out, nobody wants to pay for the full bill.Well yes that is what I've been saying. Rural areas are different.I will say, Mr. Beale still owns the house in East Jesus he had before we got married and his taxes are under $300/yr.

  8. >Excellent synopsis of the situation.

  9. >How about when the majority of people pay little or no taxes, live off the State and expect & demand services they learn the hard fact:"You get what you pay for"This is not a new concept. There was a time when if you were hungry, you went out and worked to get food. Fish, plant, forage. If you didn't, you starved. Imagine that!We live in a wealthy country. One that became so by the sweat and hard work of the people. We are so wealthy now that the government feels it can give hand outs to those in need. Over time this has produced a welfare society that expects something for nothing, pays no tax, gives nothing back, expects everything and raises hell when the people who bust their asses to pay their way and are barely getting by are told they have to give up more for those who give nothing.Hand outs and entitlements never built a Nation. But you can watch them destroy on. You're watching it now.

  10. >There was a time when if you were hungry, you went out and worked to get food. Fish, plant, forage. If you didn't, you starved. Imagine that!Yes, "imagine" is the operative word. Please show me the culture that allows its people to starve — other than ours, of course? I studied anthropology for years and I can't think of one. Every culture, primitive and historic, accommodates those members of the community who cannot or will not fish, plant or forage for whatever reason.Hell, even yeast cultures accommodate their "slackers."Wingnuts wedded to their fantasy of the rugged invididualist have been served yet another wakeup call about their flawed philosophy. Daniel Foster is right, this is very bad for Libertarianism, it shows their self-righteousness for what it really is: cruelty.

  11. >I am not Gene Cranick, I am Tonia Renee Cranick Scoville, his niece. This is likely the most balanced review of the situation I have read. Many newsmakers use it to push their "It's the Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/Liberal/Conservative/Teaparty fault" agenda, and the internet trolls continue to discuss my uncle' intelligence, motivations, etc. I grow weary of the fact that no one seems to remember there is are persons behind all this, namely, my aunt and uncle, who are living in a travel trailer right now…but at least they are okay and have somewhere to live.

  12. >Tonia, thanks for your reminder that there are real people behind this national story. We are praying for your uncle and his family.

  13. >Here's the thing. For each $100,000 of value, it would be literally 13 cents, based on .13 cent increase –> the needed $546,000.http://troy.troytn.com/Obion%20County%20Fire%20Department%20Presentation%20Presented%20to%20the%20County%20Commission.pdfPg 21.On Pg 22, we find:Example #4 is the least favorable method. Collection would still be an issue and the fire departments would have no recourse if a rural resident refused to pay the subscription.This whole ridiculous event is a failed experiment in libertarian idiocy.WASF!JzB

  14. >This might be the think prog link your looking for. I found it at Randi Rhodes blog.http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/05/after-firefighters-obion-expands/Literally, 13 cents on $100,000 property.Cheers, I guess!JzB

  15. >It's like The Riddle of the Sphinx. We only get to stand on our own two feet for a while. We needed a lot of help when we were walking on four, and we'll need a lot of help when we're walking on three. If you look closely, two feet really aren't enough to stand on by one's lonesome, despite what some people pretend. This rankles libertarians and the like who argue that children, and especially babies, cannot exist in their economic theocracy.

  16. >Excuse me, but I'm not Gene Crannick. I pay my bills.

  17. >Tonia, why didn't your uncle pay the bill? His son hadn't paid it a couple years ago, so he knew about the policy. The town says they called him to remind him to pay. He claims he "forgot," but I question that.And what's this about those animals dying? The fire took several hours to spread from where it started to the house. Where was your uncle during that time, and why didn't he get them out of the house?And what about the grandson who started the fire? Who allowed him to be playing with fire in the first place, and how old is he?Thanks in advance for your forthright answers.

  18. >would they have sat and watched as Cranick children burned alive inside the homeIn a word, no: the FD policy is that they'll go to a call if life is in danger. But that's a side-issue.I've asked elseblog if there's some kind of gradual 100-year amnesia in effect here, where people (and governments) have forgotten that the argument about universal fire service — and how to pay for it — was settled a century ago.Gene Cranick shouldn't have been placed in this situation. He was failed primarily by the Obion County government that repeatedly passed the buck to the cities. Regardless of his personal political views, is it really paternalistic "big government" thinking to say that it would have been considered an imposition to support some kind of universal fire service out of his taxes as opposed to an opt-in system?Chances are, had it been funded all the way, Gene Cranick wouldn't have even noticed the cost on his property tax bill, because when you treat fire service as a common good, the per-household cost becomes close to a rounding error. Chances are, if Obion County had gone the VFD route, Gene Cranick would have reached into his wallet and supported the local fire crew, because they'd have been people he knew serving the community when they needed it most.

  19. >Anonymous said… How about when the majority of people pay little or no taxes, live off the State and expect & demand services they learn the hard fact:That's how we got here. It took decades of right-wing propaganda, beginning with Richard Viguerie and his mass-mailing operation, continuing on through Richard Mellon Scaife funding right-wing propaganda mills such as AEI, and today with FAUX News and the Koch-funded teabagger movement.Modern day Archie Bunkers don't (or choose not to) realize that Aid to Families with Dependent Children no longer exists. That people like the Kochs and Rupert Murdoch pay far less in taxes now than their counterparts did 10, 20, and 30 years ago. Talk about creating your own reality.~

  20. >Beale, I promise you most people do not write a check every year to pay their property taxes. Most Americans wouldn't have that kind of cash on hand. It is rolled into their mortgage pymt for a reason…the banks know this, and they want to know the taxes are paid.5 acres with a modest 1800 sf house= 1500.00 per year out here.

  21. >Mack, property taxes in East Bumfuck are nothing like the property taxes in Davidson County, Mr. Beale's are under $300 for his house in rural KY which, as it happens, is in the same general part of the state as Fulton. South Fulton is right on the state line, south of Mayfield.Not everyone has a mortgage, for that matter. The reason I don't roll my taxes into my mortgage is because you actually pay more that way. When you set up an escrow account the banks make you put extra in there to cover defaults. And since we're given 5 months to pay our property taxes it makes sense to not have it rolled in.The point is, the entire argument that "no one will notice a property tax increase anyway" is completely specious. Everybody is different, what people feel financially is different. If your best argument for raising taxes is "you won't even notice it" then you've already lost the battle.Jesus I can't believe you're making me make an anti-tax argument.

  22. >SB: I've already linked to your original post on this topic in a couple of comments, but this really nails it. I still don't know why my beloved but exasperating party did not use the cutting of services around the country as a main theme in its campaign. (Actually, I wish my party had found any central theme, but that's another discussion. I would have run a series of ads simply laughing at the more insane ideas of the Caucus of the Crazy, something like "No, Mr. Paul, you are not going to convince the Congress to impose a $2000 Medicare deductible. Now let's get serious about the real problems we face…")But while it is understandable that some of the important Democratic achievements during the last two years are difficult to convey in a 30-sec spot, that things like the different 'multiplier effect' of food stamps compared to tax cuts are 'counter-intuitive' for a lot of people, and that — until they need it themselves, any 'government assistance' is something for 'other people' — frequently of darker hues — etc., the one thing everybody can understand is cutting services.There were so many opportunities. Just showing someone driving over a paved road that suddenly becomes a gravel road because people don't pay enough taces to keep them paved — as has happened — would make one point. (Even I, who have never driven in my long life and rarely leaves the confines of Brooklyn gets that.)The closing of fire companies in urban areas makes the same point without the complications of the Cranick case. (Would it be too disturbing to show a business man arguing for cutting his own taxes, and then showing what happens if his business cayches fire during one of the 'brownout nights' for his local fire company?)And again, you don't have to have children to understand the need for education and the benefits — just in your daily life — of dealing with employees, sales people, repair people, etc. who have been taught to use their brains and not just pass tests. (Okay, those ads would bounce off the 'religious homeschoolers' but they aren't going to vote for us.)And — again with a strong, disturbing ad — it is easy to make the case that the cost of one 'regulatory breakdown' is likely to cost its victims more than all the taxes they might have paid. BP, Madoff, egg contamination, and the — still dangerous — mortgage crisis all could be used for that.Instead, we attack the wingnuts on 'personal foibles' — frequently deservedly, true. ("Aqua Buddha," Paladino's vicious e-mails, campaign fiddles, and O'Donnell's stupidity of the day all make nice targets — but they don't carry over to other races. The 'tax cutting' inanity, the attack on Social Security, the global warming denialism, the 'tax fairy' that makes tax cuts not need to be paid for, the attacks on the unemployed, and the threat to 'shut the government down' and to do 'nothing but investigate, investigate, investigate,' all would have made good themes for ads in every race. But they never showed up.)

  23. >Following up on my last comment, there is something I'd like to see some people in the blogosphere put together — assuming the election results aren't so bad that we might as well just give up hope and hide until the madness dissipates. That would be a series of five-minute animations, maybe something similar to the old "Schoolhouse Rock" shows, that would hit some of the themes I mentuioned. The 'multiplier effect' for example, can't be shown in a 30-second spot, but a five-minute video on YouTube could show it easily. I'd even try and work out storyboards for it, but can't help with the animations — I have a cartoonist's mind, but a kindergartener's drawing skills.Any of these Democratic ideas really are simple to explain, but they just take more time than 30 seconds. But if there were a 'library' of simplified — but still honest — videos explaining them, they would be much easier to 'pass on.'

  24. >Prup — I've seen stuff along the lines that you mention, it would be good to have a clearing house for them all. I'm remembering the video about the budget and defense spending from before the '08 election …

  25. >I'll be honest, I don't know why he didn't pay his bill. It is possible to forget bills, especially those that are yearly. He's my uncle, it's not my business to ask.I don't know, either, what happened with the animals, but I do know this much (and knew it before the press coverage started) – One of their grandsons (who whould be a teenager, if not grown) were burning trash, not playing with fire. I believe my aunt was present, but my uncle was not when the fire started. It spread from the burn barrels to a shed to the house. Their efforts to fight it themselves were useless, it got too big too fast. I don't know any more details, I just find it sad that it's being used as political fodder, to prove that "my side is right", when really the best thing to do is to move on and rebuild as best you can. This particular blogpost was probably the most balanced thing I have seen on it, others have decided to be cute or rude about my family, which rather gets my dander up. People do not have to like my uncle's choices, or agree with them, just be respectful when discussing them. That's all I ask of anyone. That is my only point, that humans are involved here.

  26. >One of their grandsons (who whould be a teenager, if not grown) were burning trash, not playing with fire.I mentioned this in my first post about this but this shows yet again the difference between suburban/urban services and rural services. There simply is no trash pickup out in the hinterlands. You either contract with a private service (as I did when I lived in Western Kentucky) or you deal with it yourself in another way. Haul it to the dump, recycle as much as you can, or burn it.Gene Cranick is far from the first person to burn the family's trash. And we see the risk of what happens when other services aren't available. A house burned down, and threatened to take down the entire neighborhood. This is why we have taxes to pay for such things in more densely populated areas.I'm not saying Obion County should operate the same level of services as a place like Davidson County, with a smaller population they can't, it's not economically feasible. I'm just pointing this out as a way of making the larger argument that taxes pay for services and when you don't have those services, unfortunate things happen.

  27. >@Tonia, thanks for the information. I agree with you that it shouldn't be a left-wing vs. right-wing issue. I'm a lifelong Democrat, and a fairly liberal one, and am not lining up with those liberals who want to blame the Tea Party, yadda yadda yadda.The questions about why your uncle didn't pay the bill, and why the animals didn't survive, are important and relevant ones. They've both been raised by people who want to condemn him and/or the firefighters.The mayor of South Fulton says that everyone who didn't pay their fee was contacted by phone, including your uncle. Not only that, but your uncle said in a couple TV interviews that one of his sons didn't pay his fee a couple years ago, and that the town FD came out anyway, but that the fire was extinguished by the time they got there.This leads me to think that your uncle didn't "forget" anything, but was hoping to not pay the fee because he didn't expect a fire, or thought that it didn't matter if he paid because they'd come anyway. He so much as said that to one interviewer, when he said he figured the FD would come out even if he hadn't paid.Similarly, with respect to the animals, much has been made of their having perished in the fire. But from what I've read, it took a few hours for the fire to get from the grass to the house. That suggests that your uncle had time to get the animals out of there.I happen to think that Obion County should have a county-wide, tax-supported fire department, but apparently the voters there have rejected it. The stories (and a county report) said that attempts to charge $500 a call to non-town residents have been unsuccessful, because more than half the people don't pay for services they receive and there's no way to force them to pay.Do you know if your uncle took any position on that fire tax issue?

  28. >@Tonia, I have some more questions for you. But before I ask them, I want to say a few things.1. I hear you loud and clear about your uncle being a human being. From the start, I have thought of this not in stark political terms, but in human terms. Regardless of the fault, I am absolutely not among those who have said that your uncle "had it coming." This was a devastating loss that I'd wish on no one.2. We are all human beings, not machines. Show me the person who's never made serious mistakes, and I will show you a young child, a liar, or someone with a memory that is selective, defective, or both. Any judgments of fault ought to be tempered by a realization of our flawed human nature. That includes your uncle, the firefighters, and the fire chief, among others.3. I have no ax to grind here. From time to time, some "little" (in the larger scheme of things) incident happens, and I get interested. In such cases, I want to know as much fact as possible, and tailor my opinions to match those facts. So, please consider my questions as a good-faith effort to sort through the many things that I've been reading on blogs.With that, I'll give you my questions. I'll probably need to write more than one message, due to the length. Oh, and if you don't know the answers, please say so rather than trying to guess. Thanks much.1. Is your uncle disabled, or his wife, either physically or mentally? Some people say he was in a wheelchair in some of the TV appearances; others say he was standing up. I watched two clips, and he appeared to be standing up. Does he have some condition that would cause his memory to fail? How about his wife?2. Is your uncle too financially strapped to have paid the $75 fee? Some people have suggested as much.3. The town's mayor said they contact everyone who doesn't pay the fee by phone to make sure they don't want to pay. Did they do that in your uncle's case?

  29. >(continued)4. Your uncle said he volunteered to pay the costs of putting the fire out. Did he put a dollar figure on that at the time, i.e., did he say, "I'll pay the fee" or "I'll pay the $500?"5. Some have said that a neighbor offered to give the town, or the firefighters at the scene, a blank check. Is that true?6. When your father's son had the one fire that your father said the town responded to even though he wasn't a subscriber, how much did your uncle's brother pay afterwards, and was there any dispute over the amount or whether or not he would pay?7. I live in Seattle (a big city), but have lived in small cities and towns, and am familiar with the reality that there's often an untold story in the background. Was there such a story, such as bad blood between your uncle or his family, and the town, or the fire department, or its officials?8. Could you describe your uncle's place? Was it a double-wide trailer on 10 acres, as some have said? Did your uncle own the place free and clear, or is there a mortgage?9. Could you describe the area? I did some checking, and I come away with an impression of a "far suburb" or "rural suburb," as opposed to a truly remote area. Was your uncle located in a suburban subdivision just outside of town, or on a farm far out of town?I realize that I've asked a lot. I hope the questions aren't too intrusive, and I don't want to press you for answers you can't give. I thank you in advance for anything more you can tell us.

  30. >@Southern Beale, I understand about burning trash in rural areas. I also know about safety, and how important it is to do that safely, especially in rural areas.The grandson acted unsafely. I notice that Tennessee has a statewide advisory about the hazards of trash burning right now, because of the dry conditions there.If the grandson was old enough to know better, than we can absolve Mr. Cranick of a "failure to supervise" fault, and assign responsibility for starting the fire to his grandson.

  31. >Jake I don't get your point or why how the fire started is even relative, save to beat up further on a family which just lost everything. Surely the Cranick grandson is not the first nor the last person to act unsafely in Olbion County, in the State of Tennessee, in the United States, or on Planet Earth. So what of it?I could care less how the fire started. That has nothing to do with the matter of who is responsible for putting it out. This is why we have fire departments, insurance, etc. Cranick didn't pay, for WHATEVER reason, thus he didn't get fire protection. His neighbors did, and they did.This is a situation with a lot of gray areas. Seems to me had the fire department put out the Cranick fire at a greatly enhanced fee, that would have kept the fire from spreading to the neighbors'. Alternately, Olbion County could make paying for fire protection mandatory, in the interest of public safety.Clearly what we've learned here is that the fire protection policies in Olbion County are not adequate and need to be modified.And my main point is that people all around the country are behaving exactly like Gene Cranick and when their fire departments prove inadequate to protecting those people, who will be the first to cry out "we didn't know!"

  32. >@Southern Beale, you have a point about it not mattering how the fire started.I went there for a couple of reasons. One was because you'd written about the rural reality of burning garbage, and the other was because on the various websites people have been looking at every single detail with a microscope.But yeah, I see where you're coming from on that. I agree we can just say "the fire started," and examine everything that happened afterwards. I'm sure that grandson feels terrible, and there was no need to pile on. I was wrong, and I apologize.

  33. >I see that I made a mistake in my question #6 to Tonya. It should have read as follows:6. When your father's son had the one fire that your father said the town responded to even though he wasn't a subscriber, how much did your uncle's son (not "brother," as I mistakenly wrote the first time) pay afterwards, and was there any dispute over the amount or whether or not he would pay?

  34. >@Southern Beale, I am among those who think that Olbion County ought to have a county-wide fire department supported by taxes. Problem is that the voters there don't agree, and have refused to fund it.The towns, whose residents do support fire departments with taxes, in response, have tried to collect a $500 per call service fee for calls outside of their borders.The towns have been unable to collect those fees in more than half of the cases, and the county says there is no way for them to collect. That is why three of the towns went to subscriptions, and apparently the other five of them have just this week done the same.From where I sit 2,000 miles away, I think all the taxpayers in the county should pay for fire service there, and that responses should be the same for everyone. If they continue to have a fee-per-call system, then they need to find a way of enforcing the requirement to pay for service, which they've been unable to do.But if they don't do either one of those things because the voters won't allow it and/or they can't collect the fees, then I've got to say that I find it tough to point a finger at them for having a subscriber system. And if you've got a subscriber system, then you've got to make a subscription mean something or people won't pay those fees, and the departments will either be unable to give service to anyone outside their borders, or will collapse altogether.These kinds of issues are plaguing localities all over the country. To simply condemn local officials without looking deeper strikes me as unfair. If citizens won't approve the taxes, and individuals won't pay for services rendered, this is the sort of thing that's going to happen.

  35. >Jake,As I said in my first post, I am someone who has lived in a rural area and I understand the challenges this incident presents. I think there has been a lot of ignorance among the armchair pundits about who is at fault here — I agree it's unfair to blame local officials without understanding what these challenges are, and it's unfair to blame the homeowner and it's unfair to blame "right wing conservative Tennesseans" who won't vote for a tax increase. There's plenty of blame to go around and all parties should get a piece of it.I'm not sure I understand why local officials can't collect these fees. They can garnish wages and do all the other stuff they do when someone doesn't pay their property tax.

  36. >I meant to say "relevant" not "relative." I was in a hurry. I'm sure my friend Flying Junior will call me on it.:-)

  37. >@Southern Beale, I don't know why I've checked into this one to the degree I have. Oh well! So, I was thinking about it this afternoon, and it occurred to me that the idea of a county-wide fire district there is much easier said than done.Consider that there are eight town FDs, seven all-volunteer and one paid. With eight chiefs. They primarily serve towns with a total of 10,000 people, with another 20,000 served on a fee basis outside their borders.Consolidating those departments would tax the patience of even a group of people inclined to get along with each other. Now imagine if there were other divisions, ranging from partisan to egos to longstanding personal feuds, to resentments within and between towns, and between the towns and the unincorporated areas.I could imagine the town taxpayers rejecting the consolidation out of fear that their service would go to hell. I could imagine the county taxpayers rejecting consolidation out of a fear that, over time, all of the firefighters would be on the payroll and that the initial low tax wouldn't be very low for very long.And then I can imagine a dogfight among the chiefs of those eight departments for supremacy, not to mention the town councils, and the county government.I can imagine Satan's own ball of string, and a lot of people saying let's leave well enough alone and have the towns charge each user for each call. And then I can imagine the users saying, hey, if I pay that 75 bucks a year, you'd better not be running to some freeloader's house.That, too, is small-town, rural reality, writ small. Those pastoral hills can be pretty vicious, and nothing is more vicious than a local battle with relatively small stakes.

  38. >One other thing. You'd think that the fire crews could arrive at someone's burning house with a contract obligating them to pay, and say to them, "Sign this, and we'll get right to work."

  39. >@Jake, I can't answer most of your questions- other than my aunt and uncle are fairly healthy, Save for the usual complaints of a 60 something couple- so no wheelchair…he is one of 8 children, and I saw him in Aug 2009 in Missouri at a 4 day family reunion. I haven't been out to South Fulton since I was a child of about 10- so I don't remember the area…I appreciate your truth-seeking, but am of little help…I haven't seen his children since I was a young adult (I'm in my 30's) they are several years older than me.

  40. >Thanks for getting back, Tonya. Best to you and your family.

  41. >i seem to have hit a wall…I'm saying that most people would not notice a 75 dollar increase in their property taxes, since most people (your experience is not the average) pay taxes and insurance through their mortgage. I'm not arguing in favor of an increase, I'm saying that when you divide 75 by 12, its just not a lot to consider.I don't happen to pay taxes or insurance in my mortgage bill either, but I have that choice. Some banks require the escrow account. Most Americans do it though, because they are unable to save to pay the bills separately.As I said, one quibble.That said, something tells me this guy will be made whole when this all shakes out. At least financially.