Posted on 05 Oct 2010
Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the fire, along with three dogs and a cat, when firefighter in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because he hadn't paid a $75 fee.
The fire started when the Cranicks' grandson was burning trash near the family home. As it grew out of control, the Cranicks called 911, but the fire department from the nearby city of South Fulton would not respond.
"We wasn't on their list," he said the operators told him.
Cranick, who lives outside the city limits, admits he "forgot" to pay the annual $75 fee. The county does not have a county-wide firefighting service, but South Fulton offers fire coverage to rural residents for a fee.
Cranick says he told the operator he would pay whatever is necessary to have the fire put out.
His offer wasn't accepted, he said.
The fire fee policy dates back 20 or so years.
"Anybody that's not inside the city limits of South Fulton, it's a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don't," said South Fulton Mayor David Crocker.
Firefighters did eventually show up, but only to fight the fire on the neighboring property, whose owner had paid the fee.
"They put water out on the fence line out here. They never said nothing to me. Never acknowledged. They stood out here and watched it burn," Cranick said.
South Fulton's mayor said that the fire department can't let homeowners pay the fee on the spot, because the only people who would pay would be those whose homes are on fire.
Cranick, who is now living in a trailer on his property, says his insurance policy will help cover some of his lost home.
"Insurance is going to pay for what money I had on the policy, looks like. But like everything else, I didn't have enough."