When stories about home safety catch my eye, I like to pass them on to you. I’ve posted on home fire alarms before, but this story made national news, and you may have seen it – the recent fire in rural Tennessee, where the County fire personnel watched a house burn because the homeowner had not paid his annual fee for fire response. This incident sparked controversy (sorry, bad pun) all across the US, since it touched on many issues: from local budgets, to emergency response, to just plain common sense and decency. Here’s a link to the news report, and a brief description of what happened:
The issue gained national attention when firefighters from the South Fulton, TN, Fire Department were called to a blaze just outside the city limits in Obion County but within an area in which homeowners can subscribe to the agency’s services by paying a $75 annual fee. Broadcast images of the incident show firefighters sitting in their trucks as the house burns to the ground in the background. Their only action was to spray a fence line next to the home of a neighbor who had paid his subscription, according to media reports.
Among those reacting to this “pay-to-spray” story, some of the most upset were other firefighting personnel:
“Truly, a firefighter cannot stand by and watch something burn,” said Doug McClanahan, chief of the Blount County (TN) Fire Department. “He can’t stand by and not try to react to a fire or rescue. They are trained to take care of people.”
The ideological debate raged, as you can see from this article that references several viewpoints. Another article from the Washington Post draws a parallel to the availability of other public amenities, like ambulance service. But the homeowner’s neighbor had no question about the right course of action.
DeAnna Reams said her field was what drew firefighters into action. Reams, in tears, begged firefighters to save the Cranick house. Her husband offered to pay if they’d put out the flames.”It’s heartbreaking not to be able to help a neighbor,” Reams said. “That’s what we’re supposed to be able to do in this country.”
That’s a wonderful sentiment. Here at FrontPoint we like the idea of neighbors looking out for each other. In fact, it’s one of our Top Ten Home Safety Tips. Fire is a tougher topic to address across the fence line, though – since by the time you see a fire in your neighbor’s house, it may be too late. The best early warning is the home’s monitored fire alarm, starting with wireless smoke and heat sensors that trigger an alarm to the monitoring center, so fire personnel can be dispatched. And in every jurisdiction in the US (with a handful of exceptions), help will be on the way.