Ken's Project Blog

October 5, 2010

Burning Down The House

Filed under: Five Days in October — Ken @ 4:57 pm

In the news recently was a story about the Cranick family in Tennessee that watched their house burn down because they didn’t pay a $75 fee for fire protection services from a local fire company, but that isn’t the whole story…

The Cranick family lives in Obion County, which does not offer fire protection services to its residents. A near-by city, South Fulton, offers fire protection to area residents that live up to 5 miles outside their normal fire protection area, namely the city of South Fulton, for a nominal annual fee of $75. The Cranicks choose not to pay the fee, though some neighbors did.

Every year, during the month of June, the city of South Fulton solicits nearby residents without fire protection to sign-up for protection from the South Fulton fire department for $75. Those that don’t respond to the mailer are then personally contacted via phone calls to offer them the fire protection service.

The leaders of South Fulton passed legislation barring the South Fulton firefighters from putting out fires at residences that declined coverage. That legislation was revisited in July of 2008 when a similar event happened (a county home that choose not to subscribe to the fire protection service offered by the near-by city of South Fulton burned down).

The city of South Fulton has offered this courtesy service since 1990.

The Cranick house caught fire after a garbage fire got out of control and started burning their house. Repeated calls to 911 for the South Fulton fire department to come fight the blaze were denied, since the Cranicks had chosen to not take advantage of the city’s offered services. The Cranicks then offered to “pay whatever it takes” to get fire protection, but the fire department’s hands were tied – they would not come.

When the fire spread to a neighbor’s yard, the South Fulton fire department responded to the call, since the neighbor had opted-in to the fire protection South Fulton offered. Once the field fire was extinguished, the firefighters left, with the Cranick’s house still burning.

Important facts to keep in mind:

  1. The Cranick house is in Obin County.
  2. Obin County does not offer its residents fire protection.
  3. Near-by South Fulton offers fire protection services to it’s tax-paying residents.
  4. Near-by South Fulton offers fire protection services to Obin County residents that pay a $75 fee.
  5. Near-by South Fulton sends out a mailer each June offering 12 months of fire protection for $75 to Obin County residents.
  6. Near-by South Fulton calls each Obin County resident that declined the fire protection coverage.
  7. This service has been offered for the last 20 years (since 1990).
  8. In July, 2008 an Obin County resident lost their house to fire after declining fire services from Near-by South Fulton. (See
  9. The Fire Company in South Fulton is responsible to respond to fires where the property owners support the Fire Company, either through their property tax payments or the annual $75 fee.
  10. The South Fulton Fire Company is barred from rendering services to anyone that choose not to participate in the program.

Now, why not skip over to The Huffington Post and see how many of these facts they include in their coverage of this fire – they include a link to Keith Olbermann’s “report” on this – play that video at your own risk, you’ve been warned.


The Blaze:

Huffington Post (for examples of selective facts supporting unrelated political claims):

Obion County Fire Prevention website:

South Fulton Fire Department:

South Fulton Fees & Forms web page:



  1. Great recap of this sad situation.

    This does bring up where the city should charge total cost of response, likely $5000 to $10,000, for those who don’t pay the $75 annual fee but still want the fire put out.

    Comment by Eric Johnson — November 7, 2010 @ 6:26 pm | Reply

    • Not sure I agree with a ‘full cost’ option. Interesting questions arise if a ‘non-covered’ house catches fire, and while that fire being fought (for cash), another house, a ‘protected’ house, catches fire – what will FD do? How about a loss of life by a fireman at a ‘full cost’ fire occurs? Will homeowner be liable to estate of dead firefighter? Etc. Bottom line, city fire dept. are not in the ‘for hire’ fire fighting business – the residents really ought to consolidate fire fighting into a county-wide system, but I suspect the towns that have established FD already aren’t getting properly compensated for their investment that would be absorbed into a county-wide system.

      Comment by Ken — November 8, 2010 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

  2. You can post all of the behind the scenes facts and figures and talk till your blue in the face about personal responsibility, it does not take away the question of compassion. Either you have it or you do not. Period… Compassion is a quality that has been around long long before there was ever money or policy. It is a necessary layer of life itself.

    Comment by Jeffe — November 19, 2010 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

    • I understand your view, but you are ignoring what the town with the fire department offered because (I assume) it doesn’t go all the way. The family owns a house in a municipality without a fire department. It NEVER had a fire department, and when the near-by fire depArtment offered to protect him for an extremely reasonable fee, he decided not to, and he is quoted as saying “I thought they’d come even if I didn’t pay the fee”. Thehomeowner wanted to keep his $75 and decided to rely on free services from the next town over.

      What about folks in the county that live 6 miles away from the town with the fire department? They don’t have even the offer of protection, should the community with the fire department cover them too? Is there any li it to the ‘obligation of compassion’ for the town with the fire department?

      Comment by Ken — November 19, 2010 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  3. In what third world country did this event take place?

    Comment by Anders — December 10, 2010 @ 5:02 am | Reply

  4. I stumbled across this article quite by accident but took the time to read it. It’s very informative. I have one question that this blog DOESN’T cover….What IF one or both of the Cranicks were inside their home at the time of the fire, and were overcome by smoke inhalation, but still alive?

    P.S. Merry Christmas!

    Comment by Joanne Doane Sweeney — December 25, 2010 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

    • Joanne, thank you for your kind words.

      As I recall, the fire company has an expressed policy that when human life is at risk, they fight the fire and protect the humans no matter if the fee is paid or not. The fire in this specific case started in a field (burning trash on purpose, got out of hand), went to house, from house is skipped over to a neighbor’s field and the fire company put out the fre in the neighbor’s field because the neighbor paid the annual $75 fee.

      In this particular case the fire took time to engage the house – there were repeated calls to the fire department, they drove out and drove back, etc. during the fire – it wasn’t like in the movies where within minutes the entire structure is engulfed… I think it took an hour or so to reach the house.

      Comment by Ken — December 26, 2010 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

  5. ok so i am really behind in all of this…i just heard about this fire due (geeze I was thinking third world country – and people think Hawaii is off th map)….so the four animals that died in the fire didn’t count as being worthy of being saved?????? no animal lovers in that group of fire fighters…ok…that wasn’t fair…

    Comment by terry — June 15, 2011 @ 4:09 am | Reply

    • Pretty sure most fire companies place human life above pets, as they should. Don’t forget this was a slowly progressing fire, the homeowners made multiple calls for help, the homeowners choose not to risk their lives for their own pets, why should the firefighters from the next town risk their lives?

      Comment by Ken — June 15, 2011 @ 7:00 am | Reply

  6. Sure glad I live in the north east, pay taxes, and fire police EMT services along with clean streets.
    Don’t think I’d live in Tennessee, or even visit. I could just image being in an accident and having some yahoo saying, “how much you got in your pockets”.

    Comment by Froto Baggits — September 13, 2011 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

    • The crux of the issue is one town’s fire company offering to protect houses outside their town limits, for a trivial fee ($75/yr), the homeowner decided to not pay and assumed the fire comapny would protect him without making the payment – he was wrong. Also, he wasn’t asked for a payment when he reported the fire – in this case the homeowner WANTED to make a payment when he called in for help, but the fire company wouldn’t accept it (the fire was a pre-existing condition).

      Comment by Ken — September 16, 2011 @ 7:24 am | Reply

      • Doesn’t matter. As long as they were there, they should have sprayed.

        And from a sheer public relations standpoint, shouldn’t that town worry that they might attract a lot of negative national attention should they have to let a non-payers house burn?

        OH YEAH!

        Comment by Zorro-3 — December 7, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

      • The fire department was there to protect human life (in either house) and the propertiy of the neighbor that valued the fire department enough to help support it.

        The residents of the county have choosen to NOT fund a fire department, either volunteer or professional, why should towns that have decided to take on the basic responsibility of supporting a fire department assume responsibility for neighbors that repeatedly, year after year, decide not to?

        The fire department in question is fully-funded by the residents of the neighboring town, not the county, state, or federal government… Three houses in four years have burned down in this county and STILL the residents choose to not fund a fire department to protect their own property.

        If the town next to yours decided to shutter it’s police department and rely on the generosity of the neighboring police departments (like the one in the town you live in), would your town gladly oblige, or would it expect remuneration for services rendered? And if it expected remuneration and noe was offered, would it still provide services?

        Comment by Ken — December 8, 2011 @ 12:07 am

  7. They should of put out the fire. They firetrucks were even there, sure water prices are going up, and they didn’t pay the 75 but s that what life comes down to? Does this situation not seem completely irrational and immoral? The man offered to pay whatever it takes so his house and possessions wouldn’t be burnt to a crisp, even after the fire crew in the immediate area denied him help. Its just cruel, they could of made a deal it wouldn’t of cost the fire department jackshit, especially when he offered to pay more than the original 75.

    Comment by John — November 24, 2011 @ 8:55 am | Reply

    • The issue isn’t the $75, the issue is the man lives in a community that offers no fire protection for it’s citizens, and it has repeatedly decided not to create a fire department for the residents of the county. The community made a decision, and the neighboring community offered this homeowner fire protection for a minimal fee, and the homeowner again, decided not to pay the minimal fee. The county and the family actively decided not to fund fire protection services, why is the neighboring town responsible for “bailing them out” when their house catches on fire?

      The fire trucks were there to protect human life – fee or no fee – the material posessions of a family that wasn’t willing to help support the neighboring fire department are the responsibility of the homeowner. They choose to assume that responsibility when they declined coverage (at less than $0.25/day), the error of their ways was made abundantly clear when their house caught on fire. Just like the house in 2008 that burned down. And the one that burned down last week.

      Comment by Ken — December 8, 2011 @ 12:41 am | Reply

  8. Ken, you’re like one of those idiotic bureaucrats (or retail managers) who likes to keep quoting policy in the face of injustice. Yes, we all got the point that the guy should have paid his lousy $75.00.

    Putting out a house fire is not about bailing anyone out; it’s about basic decency. Put out the fire and then bill the homeowner. What’s the problem? Would this be a bit too soft for your you-only-get-one-shot policy?

    I’d also point out that the policy you love to quote is not very bright. A fire that is not extinguished spreads, as we have seen in this report. The logical result is that fires in non-covered houses will cause major problems for covered houses.

    Comment by Barry Mann — December 8, 2012 @ 8:00 pm | Reply

    • Which part of ‘he choose to not cover his house’ makes the neighboring town’s fire department responsible to put out the fire?

      As for the neighboring houses, his neighbor’s house was covered because that homeowner paid the fee.

      The man lived in a town that REPEATEDLY choose to neither form their own fire company and this very scenario played out previously AND STILL this man choose to not pay for protection.

      I realize it is very easy to take the emotional side of the argument, the reason for the post was to provide the facts of the case, not to show my sympathy for the ‘victims’ who actually intentionally started the fire that took their house.

      As noted above – if there were any threat to human life, the fire company would have responded no matter if the homeowner paid the fee or not.

      To me, the important facts in this case is that the homeowner lives in a town without a fire company, the homeowner choose to not avail himself of the generous offer from the neighboring town to protect their house for a small despite this very scenario having been played out before in this town.

      I found it fascinating that very few commentators question why a town wouldn’t have a fire company (either public or volunteer) – instead, they seem to argue that every town that owns big red fire trucks owes their fire fighting services to every town that chooses to not set up their own fire department…

      Comment by Ken — December 8, 2012 @ 10:12 pm | Reply

    • If it’s ‘all about common decency’ why bill the homeowner?

      Comment by Ken — December 8, 2012 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

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