Tag Archives: fire

The Truth About Firefighting In Obion County

As reported around the internet yesterday, a second home in Obion County, Tennessee was allowed to burn down on Tuesday. John McQuaid at Forbes had this to say in response:

But here’s the deeper problem. Look at Mayor Crocker’s rationale for letting homes burn: you pay, you get a service. Don’t pay, you get nothing. No free riders. This is straightforward and thus appealing. But it is also misguided: it puts abstract principle over the business of governing. Lives and property are put in danger in exchange for the satisfactions of bean-counting and moralistic coercion. Is letting homes burn, and scaring non-payers, really an effective positive incentive? Fire protection isn’t like water or electricity: if you cut if off for non-payment, people don’t notice until it’s too late. If a house burns for non-payment, most will think “oh, it’ll never happen to me” and go on about their business. Instead of throwing up their hands, public officials should account for this somehow, because protecting the houses of the poor and/or irresponsible from death and destruction is a public good. It’s bad for you when your neighbor’s house goes up in flames.

In other words, people are entitled to fire protection funded by someone else.

To cut through the entitlement rhetoric, let’s examine the facts:

From the 2008 Obion County Comission fire report (PDF):

On January 19, 1987, the Obion County Commission passed a resolution establishing an Obion County Fire Department, but no action was taken to implement the resolution. Therefore, Obion County has a county fire department on paper, but is unmanned, unfunded and not operational.

Because there is no operational county fire department, Obion County has missed the opportunity to actively pursue receipt of FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding.

According to survey information, over 75% of all municipal fire department’s structure calls are rural. All fire departments in Obion County charge a $500.00 fee per call in rural areas, but collections are, less than 50% and the fire departments have no way of legally collecting the charge. Therefore, the service was provided at the expense of the municipal tax payer.

Each individual municipality currently furnishes operating funds for their fire departments without assistance from the county or state.

From digitaljournal:

“According to the policy, the City of South Fulton provides rural service to residents who have paid the rural fire membership fee. This policy has been in place since 1990.”

This is in reference to the prepaid $75 annual fee, not the $500 per-call fee mentioned above. The article also mentions that approximately 700 of the 900 residences not covered by municipal fire departments have opted to pay the $75 fee.

So let’s review:

-The county established a fire department on paper nearly 25 years ago, but has failed to implement it, and in doing so, has missed the opportunity to have most of its firefighting operations funded by federal block grants;

-The county collects a property tax, but contributes none of it to firefighting operations;

-For 21 years, the city of South Fulton has permitted county residents with no fire service to pay a $75 fee for fire protection (probably the smallest amount any homeowner pays for firefighting service anywhere in the United States);

-Fire departments in Tennessee have no legal recourse for collecting un-reimbursed fees or firefighting expenses;

-The fire department already refused to put out one house fire earlier in the year due to lack of payment, and the owner of the home which burned two days ago still hadn’t paid the fee.

And for some strange reason, this problem is seen as the city of South Fulton’s fault.

Folks, each of us pay property taxes, either because we are homeowners or because the cost is embedded in our rents. Those of us who have fire protection, police service, and other emergency services, pay for them (unless we are homeless). The situation in Obion County, Tennessee is a result of incompetent government, entitlement mentality, and a lack of individual responsibility.

Remember this whenever a “registered Republican” chastises the South Fulton Fire Department: “incompetent government”, “entitlement mentality”, and “lack of individual responsibility” are three things the rest of us are battling against.

America, This Is What Real Leadership Looks Like

Whether you agree with his position on the issues or not, the American people need to look no further than Texas to see an example of what real leadership looks like.

This morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the catastrophic wildfires that are burning throughout the state.

Governor Perry, who is running for President in the 2012 election, was scheduled to speak at a conference in South Carolina. However, due to the severity of the situation with the wildfires in Texas, he has left the campaign trail to oversee the efforts to contain and put out these ferocious fires.

Brian Kilmeade, one of the co-hosts of Fox & Friends, opened up the interview with Governor Perry by asking him to give his account of his fly over of the wildfires, where more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed since this last round of fires has broken out.  Since the start of fire season this past December, 3.6 million acres in Texas have been burned up in wildfires.

Governor Perry spoke of how there is something different with this fire, saying it is “very mean looking”, adding that one aspect of this fire that makes it so serious is the fact that it is burning right up to the city limits of Bastrop, which is a densely populated residential area. Governor Perry made sure to thank the many volunteer firemen who have come to assist from as far away as California and Oregon. At this point, the fire is not contained at all, but the Governor assured the public that he is hopeful with the resources that are coming in, containment of these fires will be achieved.

The interview takes a turn from the serious issue of the fires when Biran Kilmeade directs the line of questioning towards Governor Perry’s campaign. The Governor makes it clear that no matter where he is, he is in constant communication with his staff. He assures the co-hosts that multi-tasking is nothing new in Texas.

Next, Steve Doocy asks Governor Perry to comment on Mitt Romney’s job plan that is reported to have “59 specific proposals and 10 concrete actions” he would take on his first day in office to create jobs. The Romney Plan is reportedly coming out today. Mr. Doocy pointed out that Governor Perry is the front runner in many polls, and asked the Governor where his jobs plan is. The Governor makes it very clear that he is not concerned about politics at this time, saying:

“Well, the 50 things I am focused on right now are the number of fires in the state of Texas. So there’s plenty of time to lay out ideas about job creation, which we do on a regular basis here in the state of Texas. But that’s secondary, obviously, to getting these fires taken care of.”

Not to be outdone, Gretchen Carlson goes on to say that she “can assume that a plan will coming shortly after the crisis” is dealt with. She continues on with the Mitt Romney campaign vs Rick Perry campaign, where she mentions  comments Mitt Romney has made regarding Governor Perry’s career in politics. Gretchen tosses the conversation back to Governor Perry by asking him, “What’s your comeback?”

In what could quite possibly be seen as the defining moment in Governor Perry’s campaign for the presidency, he once again makes it very clear that while he is in the race to be President of The United States of America, he has a job that he has to do right now, by saying:

“Well, I’m working my day job right now, and I’ll be real honest with you, I’m not paying any attention to what the critics may say. I’m more interested in what these people out here who’s lives are in jeopardy and who’s homes are being impacted. Possessions and homes are important but there not as important as people’s lives.”

Governor Perry continues by saying how important it is for people to avoid being outdoors if there are any activities that can cause a fire, and when evacuations orders come, listen, because it could be your life.

Once again, Brian Kilmeade jumps into the conversation, this time commenting that he knows Governor Perry is focused on the fires, but he would like to get his reaction on yesterday’s declaration of war on the Tea Party by Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.  He plays the clip, then asks the Governor what his reactions are, and if he thinks the comments made by Hoffa are appropriate or inappropriate. Viewers can see the visible frustration on the Governor’s face with the continual redirection of questioning from the fire to politics.

Once again, Governor Perry shows his commitment to the people of Texas over politics, saying:

“Well, you wouldn’t be bleeping if it were appropriate, but bottom line is the people I’m more interested in are the people out here on these fire lines. They are hard working men and women. There’s probably even union firefighters out there, and God bless ’em for helping save Texas lives and Texas homes.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry; photo by Gage Skidmore

Gretchen makes sure to assure Governor Perry that after he is finished dealing with the fires, they know they will have him back on the show to hear his comments on Hoffa and the other political discussions they bombarded him with, though he consistently reminded them that his focus is not on political games, but the people of Texas.

Governor Perry smiles, though his irritation is obvious that all three of the co-hosts seem to care more about politics that the dire situation facing Texas citizens.  In true leadership fashion, with all the class in the world, he ends the interview by saying:

“Keep our folks in your prayers and your thoughts.”

There is no perfect candidate in any race, however, the American people now have a very clear picture of true leadership. Unlike President Obama and many others who turn every event, tragedy, birthday party or accomplishment into a political agenda, Governor Rick Perry understands that leadership is real work, not just a fancy title.

This is the Fox & Friends interview in its entiriety: