Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Pay Or Burn

Remember last year when we heard about that house in Tennessee that firefighters refused to put out because its owners had not paid their annual fire subscription fee? And everyone was all, "You're kidding, right?" Well, they were not kidding then and they are not kidding now. Not burning to the ground is a privilege, not a right. How long before cash-strapped municipalities start going up to random homeowners and saying, "Nice house you got here. Be a shame if it caught fire, wouldn't it?" I would not be shocked to learn that it is happening already.


19 Comments / Post A Comment

joeks (#5,805)

Why bother paying the fee if you can just pay it in the event that your house actually does catch fire? If it worked that way no one would pay and the fire department wouldn't have any money and then everyone's house would be burning down, all the time.

Not a lot of great options here, unfortunately.

roboloki (#1,724)

@joeks good point. also, why should we ever treat another human being with compassion, tolerance or love when we can just treat them with contempt and stroll happily along as a heartless fuckstick.
i must disagree with your conclusion that there are no great options. the best option would be to put out the fucking fire. that is all.

melis (#1,854)

@joeks You're just bitter because the fire department never helped you get your kites out of that kite-eating tree.

freetzy (#7,018)

Is "subscription based government" a common thing? It just seems like a really bad idea.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@freetzy No kidding. Even worse: imagine if people had the option of not purchasing health insurance. Oh, wait…

Bittersweet (#765)

@freetzy: Isn't that what your property taxes are, though, just on a larger scale?

@joeks If only there were some way that the government could use its tax power to coordinate collective action. Oh well :(

boysplz (#9,812)

@bittersweet The tricky bit of this is that the houses are in an unincorporated area, so they don't pay property taxes to the city. It's sort of an extra service that the fire department is offering, so it's kind of a gray area I guess. The answer would be to expand the incorporated area or maybe make it somehow an opt-out process instead of just assuming that people know to pay their yearly fee. It's still kind of awful but maybe if someone had to actually choose to not pay to have fire department support every year this wouldn't happen so often.

deepomega (#1,720)

@boysplz Yeah I mean this is a tax base issue. Not sure what the long-term solution is, given that firefighters cost money and the people whose houses burned were not paying any. (The cleanest solution is incorporating the area, but I'm guessing that's also not at all popular.)

zidaane (#373)

@deepomega The solution is pretty simple- the fire subscription is $75. If you don't pay that and your house is on fire and requires the Fire Department, then you pay the full cost of that service (say $10k or whatever).

Yeah, but they had already dispatched the fucking truck. So the costs associated with staffing, gearing up, getting out to the location — not to mention the opportunity cost of not fighting another, simultaneous fire — were already down the drain.

The only thing they *saved* here was water and the labor of actually fighting the fire.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Clarence Rosario Well, no, they also saved on the future cost of people thinking they can not pay and the firefighters will put it out anyway. Definitely not ideal though!

@zidaane: Not sure if that's constitutional, actually. (hah)

zidaane (#373)

@deepomega Same thing as rescue insurance if you go climbing in a National Park and need to be airlifted out. You can pay for the insurance or the whole bill. Your choice. The rescue team doesn't sit around with their thumbs up their ass and watch you die because you didn't buy the insurance.

deepomega (#1,720)

@zidaane Just found coverage that says this is actually how it works. $2,200 on the spot to pay for two hours of firefighting, plus $1,100 per hour after that. The people whose house burned knew about the policy, but figured they wouldn't ever have a fire, which…

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Why did God give the best childhood education in the world to Finland, and the firefighters that will just watch as your house burns down if you didn't subscribe for their services to Tennessee? Because Tennessee picked first!

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@Niko Bellic
Glass houses, my brother.

ep (#8,509)

The threat of catastrophic fire can be considered sufficient moral hazard as long as the bank that holds the mortgage can be guaranteed access to tax dollars in order to cover its own losses and executive bonuses. Let's try to remember that it is those innocent, heavily subsidized speculators who are the real victims when a family's home disappears.

riggssm (#760)

They "admit they were aware but thought this would never happen to them."

Personal responsibility.

taigan (#11,267)

@riggssm I do feel sympathy toward these people, but really, they knew the risks and took a gamble that didn't pay off for them. It's sad, but probably a really valuable lesson for them to have learned.

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