No Pay, No Spray

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Bhelliom
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No Pay, No Spray

Postby Bhelliom » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

Please, let this be a mistake, or a bad joke.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39516346/ns/us_news-life/

I don't even have words to accurately describe how this makes me feel. They let a house burn, plus a dog and 3 cats die, because he didn't pay some $75 dollar fee?

Wow, just wow.....
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:53 pm UTC

Isn't libertarianism awesome?
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Роберт » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:54 pm UTC

Well, obviously he didn't think the fire protection was worth the annual fee? Unless he really just forgot, in which case there should have been warnings and reminders.

Lazar wrote:Isn't libertarianism awesome?

So you would prefer a mandatory fee, rather than an opt-in?
Last edited by Роберт on Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:54 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:54 pm UTC

I have the words, they would just get me kicked off the internet.

This reminds me of the early days of firefighting, when the firemen would show up and extort "fire insurance" from homeowners before fighting the fire. I thought that crap was illegal?
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby JBJ » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:05 pm UTC

SummerGlauFan wrote:This reminds me of the early days of firefighting, when the firemen would show up and extort "fire insurance" from homeowners before fighting the fire. I thought that crap was illegal?

This story is quite the opposite. They refused even after the home owner offered to pay.

Bhelliom wrote:They let a house burn, plus a dog and 3 cats die
There have been several inconsistencies in the reporting of this story. The local CBS affiliate story said the fire started in some outside burn barrels (from a fire that the residents started, but got out of control) which spread to a nearby shed, then finally to the house. The local reporter stated that it took 2 hours for the fire to reach the house. I doubt they wouldn't have been able to secure their pets and a number of portable possessions from their house in that time.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:09 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:So you would prefer a mandatory fee, rather than an opt-in?

I'm in favor of everyone paying taxes for public services, and I'm in favor of firefighters putting out all fires. In this particular case, at least have some sort of penalty which enables people to receive the service even if they haven't paid the fee.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby SummerGlauFan » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:15 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:
SummerGlauFan wrote:This reminds me of the early days of firefighting, when the firemen would show up and extort "fire insurance" from homeowners before fighting the fire. I thought that crap was illegal?

This story is quite the opposite. They refused even after the home owner offered to pay.


I didn't say it was the same, but it is not the opposite; there was still a fee he had to pay in order to be eligible for firefighting coverage. Why wasn't he repeatedly warned about that via mail or phone calls?

Lazar wrote:
Роберт wrote:So you would prefer a mandatory fee, rather than an opt-in?

I'm in favor of everyone paying taxes for public services, and I'm in favor of firefighters putting out all fires. In this particular case, at least have some sort of penalty which enables people to receive the service even if they haven't paid the fee.


Quite this. This was nothing more than some bureaucratic twit following the god called procedure at the expense of someone's property, as well as at the expense of lives (the dog and cats).
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Vaniver » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:19 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:Isn't libertarianism awesome?
I agree this is tragic. This family's suffering is real and independent of blame.

But that's not enough to justify the town's fire department having an unlimited responsibility to fight fires. If I called them up and asked them to drive 12 hours to fight a fire on my property, any of the following reasons would be enough justification: they're too far away, I haven't paid for their costs at all, and there's a fire department closer to me than they are (many, in fact). I don't think getting rid of the first and third reasons is enough to switch the conclusion.

We can consider the opposite situation- one where the firefighters are forced to fight fires they don't have the money to fight- and see tragedy there, as well. Or in the other alternative of town-dwellers paying more taxes to pay for the fire protection of non-town-dwellers who do not have to pay at all.

SummerGlauFan wrote:I have the words, they would just get me kicked off the internet.

This reminds me of the early days of firefighting, when the firemen would show up and extort "fire insurance" from homeowners before fighting the fire. I thought that crap was illegal?
That's why they couldn't put out his fire. If they were allowed to charge on the spot, they would have put out the fire and charged him quite a bit of money (which he claims he would have been willing to pay).

What seems best is for them to give people two options: fire insurance of $75 a year, and fire protection of, say, $75,000 when there's actually a fire going on. I'm assuming that one out of a thousand houses catches fire in a year; I suspect that's within a factor of 10 of the actual number. In this particular area, it may be rather different. Given human risk aversion, the ratio of insurance to protection might be higher than the probability suggests (i.e. the fire protection cost might only be $30,000).

That would make it so tragedies like this can be prevented, and the other, less visible tragedies could also be prevented. (One caveat to this plan is it forces the fire department to take on the risk of default- someone might say "yes, I'll pay you $75,000 to save my home" and then declare bankruptcy; the fire department is not obligated to add financing to its core competency of fighting fires.)

Lazar wrote:I'm in favor of everyone paying taxes for public services, and I'm in favor of firefighters putting out all fires. In this particular case, at least have some sort of penalty which enables people to receive the service even if they haven't paid the fee.
1. What happens if people don't pay taxes? 2. What happens when it is legally impossible to tax them?

This family was living outside of the city limits, and the county does not have a fire department. The fire department can only be funded by these residents if they choose to do so; the city simply cannot tax them.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lucrece » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:25 pm UTC

What annoyed me is the petty approach not just by the fire department, but the mayor. The neighbors are reported to actually have tried to help with their hoses, but the firemen just coldly stood there and grinned to themselves for teaching someone a lesson?

These small town "Christians" are some of the most diabolical creatures I've witnessed.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Princess Marzipan » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:32 pm UTC

Vaniver, I would hope that we can agree that a system that allows what happened here is a bad system. If you have a fire department sitting at a fire in progress doing nothing as it consumes a home and LIVING ANIMALS, something needs to be fixed.

Lucrece, what the fuck? What the FUCK does Christianity have to do with this? Where the FUCK is anyone saying they're Christian, or even indicating they're Christian? And where the FUCK is it stated that the firefighters stood there GRINNING? You are making things up that have no basis in fact and/or no relation to this incident whatsoever.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby JBJ » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:35 pm UTC

Some additional info: 3 of the cities charge a subscription for service, the other 5 respond to rural calls on a per call basis and charge $500. Collection on the per call basis is less than 50%. Over 75% of the calls to the municipal fire departments are for rural calls. (source)

The county actually has a fire department, on paper at least. It's just unmanned and unfunded. This is a failure of the county government. It's technically not a responsibility of the city government. They need to recoup their costs somehow especially when over 75% of their calls are to areas they don't cover.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:39 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:But that's not enough to justify the town's fire department having an unlimited responsibility to fight fires. If I called them up and asked them to drive 12 hours to fight a fire on my property, any of the following reasons would be enough justification: they're too far away, I haven't paid for their costs at all, and there's a fire department closer to me than they are (many, in fact). I don't think getting rid of the first and third reasons is enough to switch the conclusion.

And I think getting rid of the first and third is enough to switch the conclusion. The provision of firefighting services should be no more dependent on an individual's payment than police services. If you haven't paid your taxes, should police officers stand and watch while you are mugged or assaulted?

1. What happens if people don't pay taxes? 2. What happens when it is legally impossible to tax them?

If people don't pay taxes and they should, then the government should punish them and seek owed taxes accordingly. (But this question should be entirely separate from the provision of public services.) If people are asked to pay no taxes because no public services are provided to them (as in this case), then they are not living under a functional government.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Roĝer » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:49 pm UTC

Some services, like fire fighting and police protection, should not be optional, but be paid from common resources, also because one person not having them incurs unnecessary costs on neighbours (such as in this case).
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Kayangelus » Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:57 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
Vaniver wrote:But that's not enough to justify the town's fire department having an unlimited responsibility to fight fires. If I called them up and asked them to drive 12 hours to fight a fire on my property, any of the following reasons would be enough justification: they're too far away, I haven't paid for their costs at all, and there's a fire department closer to me than they are (many, in fact). I don't think getting rid of the first and third reasons is enough to switch the conclusion.

And I think getting rid of the first and third is enough to switch the conclusion. The provision of firefighting services should be no more dependent on an individual's payment than police services. If you haven't paid your taxes, should police officers stand and watch while you are mugged or assaulted?


From what I understand, that analogy is utter crap because the city's police would, by law, not have any policing authority outside the city's limits. Yes, police should not behave like police where they aren't police. Also, if you aren't paying taxes because you have the money to but said "screw it, I'm not gonna", you can and will be punished. Maybe you would also like to give the firefighters the ability to fine those in the rural areas who don't pay the fee, even when their houses don't burn?

The firefighters are employees of the city. The city has no responsibility to help those out that don't live in the city. They would only have that responsibility if they were allowed to tax those living outside the city. That is how it works. You provide services to those whom you are allowed to tax. In this case, the $75 annual fee is kind of like that tax. Except since it can't be enforced, they only give services to those who pay it. That is how businesses operate too: you get benefits if you pay the fees. Maybe in an ideal society where firefighters have unlimited money... somehow, your idea could work

Lazar wrote:
1. What happens if people don't pay taxes? 2. What happens when it is legally impossible to tax them?

If people don't pay taxes and they should, then the government should punish them and seek owed taxes accordingly. (But this question should be entirely separate from the provision of public services.) If people are asked to pay no taxes because no public services are provided to them (as in this case), then they are not living under a functional government.


Frankly, that is the county's problem, not the city's or the firefighters' problem.

Roĝer wrote:Some services, like fire fighting and police protection, should not be optional, but be paid from common resources, also because one person not having them incurs unnecessary costs on neighbours (such as in this case).


And what happens when you are legally not allowed to charge a group of people to put money into those common resources because of where they live? In this case the city actually incurs no unnecessary costs from letting the rural regions burn... or get mugged...

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lucrece » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:04 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:Vaniver, I would hope that we can agree that a system that allows what happened here is a bad system. If you have a fire department sitting at a fire in progress doing nothing as it consumes a home and LIVING ANIMALS, something needs to be fixed.

Lucrece, what the fuck? What the FUCK does Christianity have to do with this? Where the FUCK is anyone saying they're Christian, or even indicating they're Christian? And where the FUCK is it stated that the firefighters stood there GRINNING? You are making things up that have no basis in fact and/or no relation to this incident whatsoever.


Those small-town, "conservative values" that said mayor promotes by demonizing and blaming a man for his own tragedy. You know, this kind of mentality is exactly whet people like Tea Partiers promote, to "carry your own weight". Self-professed Christians being most un-Christian.

Did you not read the report? They stood there and waited till the fire got to the neighbors' property to put it out, but they had no problem standing there taking in the sight of someone's house burning down.


These people did not avoid going there because it would stretch their resources thin. They were already there and had no problem helping the nearby neighbors.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby sophyturtle » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:10 pm UTC

I am not sure you read the report. It clearly stated that no one would respond to the call until the neighbor's yard (who had paid) was on fire. Then they came out.

Reading is important.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby wst » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:11 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:Those small-town, "conservative values" that said mayor promotes by demonizing and blaming a man for his own tragedy. You know, this kind of mentality is exactly whet people like Tea Partiers promote, to "carry your own weight". Self-professed Christians being most un-Christian.

Did you not read the report? They stood there and waited till the fire got to the neighbors' property to put it out, but they had no problem standing there taking in the sight of someone's house burning down.


These people did not avoid going there because it would stretch their resources thin. They were already there and had no problem helping the nearby neighbors.
Yeah, you're putting words into the gaps between words. Chill the fuck out, being irrational in an argument is a sure way to lose, even if you're right. Jeez.

Yes, they should have acted first.
Why... is there no provision to just put the fire out and bureaucracify later?
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:14 pm UTC

What I would like to know is if the owner had a history of paying the fee. If he never paid in say the 20 years the policy has been around I would be less sympathetic than if he paid but this year didn't. Don't get me wrong, this system is clearly dysfunctional. I would just be more sympathetic if they showed proof he forgot payment or that he had paid in the past.

It makes sense in a twisted way that they couldn't accept payment on the spot. Regardless, I think the firefighters should have been the 'bigger man' and put the fire out. Then spread the word about the fee and not to forget. Raise awareness and if not paying the fee becomes a problem, you at least tried.
Last edited by broken_escalator on Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:14 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:14 pm UTC

Kayangelus wrote:From what I understand, that analogy is utter crap because the city's police would, by law, not have any policing authority outside the city's limits. Yes, police should not behave like police where they aren't police.

If the police are outside their jurisdiction but still on duty (as these firefighters were), then yes, they had damn well better intervene to stop a mugging. I didn't say that firefighters should fight fires when they're off duty, taking a joyride through the countryside in their private car.

Also, if you aren't paying taxes because you have the money to but said "screw it, I'm not gonna", you can and will be punished.

By the withholding of potentially lifesaving services? That's barbaric. As I said above, failure to pay tax should be a matter for the tax collectors, not the service providers.

Maybe you would also like to give the firefighters the ability to fine those in the rural areas who don't pay the fee, even when their houses don't burn?

Huh? In the first place, essential services should be funded by taxes, not opt-in fees. In the second place, no, I don't think firefighters should be debt collectors.

You provide services to those whom you are allowed to tax.

That makes no sense. For example, the police in City X should only be allowed to stop muggings if the person being mugged is a city resident, but not if they're a visitor? State rescue services should only rescue state residents?

In this case, the $75 annual fee is kind of like that tax. Except since it can't be enforced, they only give services to those who pay it. That is how businesses operate too: you get benefits if you pay the fees. Maybe in an ideal society where firefighters have unlimited money... somehow, your idea could work

Not an ideal society, merely a society where everyone pays mandatory taxes for basic services.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Роберт » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:20 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:Vaniver, I would hope that we can agree that a system that allows what happened here is a bad system. If you have a fire department sitting at a fire in progress doing nothing as it consumes a home and LIVING ANIMALS, something needs to be fixed.
I agree something terrible happened. Apparently, the county fire department is broken.

As far as the city fire department not intervening... the city has a finite budget. Would you rather:
1. The city cover everyone in the surrounding counties without payment, thus basically forcing everyone who lives in the city to pay for their own services and the services of those not in the city
2. The city have the power to tax people not living in the city
3. The city to not cover anyone outside the city (probably the most realistic choice other than the current system - let the county fire department deal with it... I think this is how it usually works, and it doesn't make the news)
or
4. The city magically come up with the funds to support people who don't contribute to the system without taking it from other people (pro tip: this is impossible)


Lazar wrote:
Also, if you aren't paying taxes because you have the money to but said "screw it, I'm not gonna", you can and will be punished.

By the withholding of potentially lifesaving services? That's barbaric. As I said above, failure to pay tax should be a matter for the tax collectors, not the service providers.
I find it unlikely that the same scenario would have occurred if their were actually human lives at risk
Last edited by Роберт on Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:21 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Vaniver » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:21 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:Vaniver, I would hope that we can agree that a system that allows what happened here is a bad system. If you have a fire department sitting at a fire in progress doing nothing as it consumes a home and LIVING ANIMALS, something needs to be fixed.
I totally agree; I even went so far as to propose a fix that makes no one worse off than they are under the current system.

JBJ wrote:Some additional info: 3 of the cities charge a subscription for service, the other 5 respond to rural calls on a per call basis and charge $500. Collection on the per call basis is less than 50%. Over 75% of the calls to the municipal fire departments are for rural calls.
Thanks for finding that info; it seems much more palatable than the numbers I was coming up with from some assumptions and the insurance cost. There's quite a bit of other information necessary to make a full recommendation, but that shows that other cities are able to do a similar plan with much lower fire response costs, but also with the high rates of default I was worried about (which are troubling given the low cost involved).

Lazar wrote:The provision of firefighting services should be no more dependent on an individual's payment than police services. If you haven't paid your taxes, should police officers stand and watch while you are mugged or assaulted?
If the police officers are contracted to serve the area you're in, no, they shouldn't, because they've been paid by the area as a whole.

Again, remember this news story was outside of their jurisdiction. If I get mugged in a rural county, and I call the nearest town's police department, they'll say "sorry, that's the job of the county police department." And if there is no county police department, that doesn't change the fact that it's not their job. (As far as I know, every county in the US does have a police department, so that wouldn't be an issue here. But the result should still stand.)

Lazar wrote:If people don't pay taxes and they should, then the government should punish them and seek owed taxes accordingly. (But this question should be entirely separate from the provision of public services.) If people are asked to pay no taxes because no public services are provided to them (as in this case), then they are not living under a functional government.
The prime function of government is to prevent other governments from taking its territory. Everything else is icing on the cake- that's why this county is still around, despite underserving its citizens (for twenty years, apparently).

wst wrote:Why... is there no provision to just put the fire out and bureaucracify later?
Because they have no legal recourse if they put out someone's fire, and then that person decides not to pay them. The fire department has decided the best response is to not put out fires unless prepaid; which is a valid response.

broken_escalator wrote:It makes sense in a twisted way that they couldn't accept payment on the spot. Regardless, I think the firefighters should have been the 'bigger man' and put the fire out. Then spread the word about the fee and not to forget. Raise awareness and if not paying the fee becomes a problem, you at least tried.
This is a far more effective way of spreading the word- now everyone knows that paying the fee is not optional.

Remember, this is an old policy. They've probably tried to "ok, we'll do it this time" approach.

[edit]According to JBJ, during the Olbermann interview it's said that they already did that approach with this homeowner.
Last edited by Vaniver on Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:26 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby JBJ » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:22 pm UTC

wst wrote:Yes, they should have acted first.
Why... is there no provision to just put the fire out and bureaucracify later?

Because they have no authority to enforce collection and historically less than 50% of the per call services were actually paid for.

broken_escalator wrote:What I would like to know is if the owner had a history of paying the fee.
Going by the Olbermann interview, he appears to have a history of not paying. He mentioned a previous fire where the chief at the time allowed him to settle his outstanding dues the following day.

Edit - went back and re-watched. Starting at about 4 minutes in. This is my best attempt at transcription...
Olbermann asks if there was any instance where the fire department went ahead and fought a fire when the fee hadn't been paid.
"3 years ago this december, had the fire up here in my boy's house, and they waived the fee til the next day. We done had the thing out before they got there, which don't make any difference, but they still had the fee waived until the next day and I went in and paid it." /edit

Lazar wrote:
You provide services to those whom you are allowed to tax.
That makes no sense. For example, the police in City X should only be allowed to stop muggings if the person being mugged is a city resident, but not if they're a visitor? State rescue services should only rescue state residents?
Jurisdiction. Police in City X have a responsibility to everyone within the city limits. The house in this story lies outside the jurisdiction of the South Fulton fire department. Every property owner who pays their fee "becomes" part of their jurisdiction.
Last edited by JBJ on Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:36 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Роберт » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:24 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
broken_escalator wrote:It makes sense in a twisted way that they couldn't accept payment on the spot. Regardless, I think the firefighters should have been the 'bigger man' and put the fire out. Then spread the word about the fee and not to forget. Raise awareness and if not paying the fee becomes a problem, you at least tried.
This is a far more effective way of spreading the word- now everyone knows that paying the fee is not optional.

Remember, this is an old policy. They've probably tried to "ok, we'll do it this time" approach.

This is my guess as well.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:28 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:
Lazar wrote:That makes no sense. For example, the police in City X should only be allowed to stop muggings if the person being mugged is a city resident, but not if they're a visitor? State rescue services should only rescue state residents?
Jurisdiction. Police in City X have a responsibility to everyone within the city limits. The house in this story lies outside the jurisdiction of the South Fulton fire department. Every property owner who pays their fee "becomes" part of their jurisdiction.

A patchwork of property-based jurisdiction, just like in the days of the old fire insurance rackets? Sounds like a mercenary mess to me. I say it's unethical for an on-duty firefighting team to be present at the scene of a fire, which they have the ability to put out, and not put it out. In my view, their duty in such a case is comparable to a policeman's duty to stop a mugging, or an EMT's duty to provide medical attention. The most important detail being the fact that the service provider is there.
Last edited by Lazar on Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:30 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:30 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
broken_escalator wrote:It makes sense in a twisted way that they couldn't accept payment on the spot. Regardless, I think the firefighters should have been the 'bigger man' and put the fire out. Then spread the word about the fee and not to forget. Raise awareness and if not paying the fee becomes a problem, you at least tried.
This is a far more effective way of spreading the word- now everyone knows that paying the fee is not optional.

Remember, this is an old policy. They've probably tried to "ok, we'll do it this time" approach.

This is my guess as well.

Going by what was said by the Olbermann interview I concur. Sounds like the homeowner probably figured he could just pay by occurrence again. I mean what're they gonna do, let his house burn?! That's what the cynic in me is betting on.

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Jessica » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:31 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:
broken_escalator wrote:What I would like to know is if the owner had a history of paying the fee.
Going by the Olbermann interview, he appears to have a history of not paying. He mentioned a previous fire where the chief at the time allowed him to settle his outstanding dues the following day.
I wonder how accurate that is. But, if it is accurate, then I have very little sympathy for him. He got his one time chance. Then he didn't choose to pay after that. Sorry, but that's not the fire department's fault.

ninja edit: It sucks that they weren't able to do anything. That doesn't mean that they were morally compelled to do something. It reminds me of the note homer got when he called 911 for having his arm in the vending machine. Dear Mrs Simpson. While we were saving your husband, a lumber yard burned down.

While they were outside of the city limits at a house that isn't part of their jurisdiction, there were people who are part of the city who were possibly at risk.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Kayangelus » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:31 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:If the police are outside their jurisdiction but still on duty (as these firefighters were), then yes, they had damn well better intervene to stop a mugging. I didn't say that firefighters should fight fires when they're off duty, taking a joyride through the countryside in their private car.


Um, the firefighters were not on duty in the rural region until the neighbor's yard got on fire.

Lazar wrote:By the withholding of potentially lifesaving services? That's barbaric. As I said above, failure to pay tax should be a matter for the tax collectors, not the service providers.


The tax collectors (in this case the bureaucrats) did handle the failure to pay tax. It was in the form of no services. There is nothing barbaric about not doing your job because you aren't payed to do it. For that matter, if the firefighters had intervened with their truck, is there a guarantee that they would not have been charged for the water they had used? It would be nice if the article had addressed that.

Lazar wrote:Huh? In the first place, essential services should be funded by taxes, not opt-in fees. In the second place, no, I don't think firefighters should be debt collectors.


Right, and how the hell is the city supposed to collect tax from those not in their jurisdiction? This was raised in the thread before by others. No one has yet addressed this...

Lazar wrote:That makes no sense. For example, the police in City X should only be allowed to stop muggings if the person being mugged is a city resident, but not if they're a visitor? State rescue services should only rescue state residents?


Okay, yeah, I worded that like utter crap. Also, what was written there was actually wrong. Still, you only provide services in areas where you are allowed to tax/operate. Also, this wasn't a state rescue service. The article made it clear it was a city rescue service (and there was a county one, but in practice is non-existent due to lack of funding).

Lazar wrote:Not an ideal society, merely a society where everyone pays mandatory taxes for basic services.


aka, not the society those rural people lived under? But you want the firefighters to pretend they lived under?

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby engr » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:34 pm UTC

It's not as simple, folks.
I'm a volunteer firefighter in a small town. Luckily, the residents support us through taxes, i.e. we don't have salaries, but we have enough money to buy fuel, maintain equipment, building, pay for members' classes, etc. so there never was a question of whether to fight a fire or not.
Not all fire departments are that lucky. Do you know what firefighting in many towns and villages in the US is like? There's a tiny old firehouse that can barely accommodate a fire engine; there's breathing apparatus and turnout gear from 1980s and a fire engine which was made about the time when "Emergency!" was filmed. Firefighters (who are neither paid nor insured) have to rely on federal and state grants (which aren't easy to get and which will only pay for specific expenses), donations, and fundraisers - bingo, fish fries, etc - because their town won't establish a fire tax. And when these are not enough to pay for expenses, firefighters have to institute a system like this fire department did: persuade residents to pay a voluntary subscription fee. And if you don't pay and your house catches on fire, fire department will only do what's necessary to save residents' lives (regardless if they paid the fee or not) and to stop fire from spreading to other houses. It's not a for-profit thing, fire departments need that money just to continue operating.
This is, luckily, a pretty rare occurrence, and when it happens, it makes national headlines, just like now.
What do you think will happen if they fought that fire? How many residents do you think would pay the fee next year, knowing that the fire department will save their property regardless? And how soon this fire department will close down and leave the area without any protection?
This discussion about sums it up.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Chen » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:36 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:A patchwork of property-based jurisdiction, just like in the days of the old fire insurance rackets? Sounds like a mercenary mess to me. I say it's unethical for an on-duty firefighting team to be present at the scene of a fire, which they have the ability to put out, and not put it out. In my view, their duty in such a case is comparable to a policeman's duty to stop a mugging, or an EMT's duty to provide medical attention. The most important detail being the fact that the service provider is there.


Well the article says they only arrived there after the neighbors yard caught fire and they worked to put that out. The owner says they "stood around and watched it burn". Its unclear if he meant they watched his burn while dealing with the neighbor and fence line or if they watched it burn AFTER they had finished making sure the neighbor's fire was out.

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:38 pm UTC

Kayangelus wrote:Um, the firefighters were not on duty in the rural region until the neighbor's yard got on fire.

But they still refused to put out the original fire, which I consider unethical. As I said in my recent post, a civilized society should not provide services following a patchwork of property-based jurisdiction.

The tax collectors (in this case the bureaucrats) did handle the failure to pay tax. It was in the form of no services.

Wrong. In this situation, there were no taxes and no tax collectors. If it were a tax, it would have been mandatory.

There is nothing barbaric about not doing your job because you aren't payed to do it.

If you are a public servant entrusted with carrying out lifesaving duties, then yes, there is. It's barbaric for a policeman to stand by while someone is murdered, or for an EMT to stand by while someone dies of a heart attack, because they weren't paid.

Right, and how the hell is the city supposed to collect tax from those not in their jurisdiction? This was raised in the thread before by others. No one has yet addressed this...

Either the city should have the power to tax those residents, or the county should have a fire department. The current situation is an embarrassing failure of government which should have no place in the US.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby wst » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:39 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:
wst wrote:Yes, they should have acted first.
Why... is there no provision to just put the fire out and bureaucracify later?

Because they have no authority to enforce collection and historically less than 50% of the per call services were actually paid for.
How about running the system like marine salvage? The firefighters would go to the blaze and extinguish it. Then the fire department would claim the property theirs and the owner/occupier of the property (whoever's meant to pay the fire department for that property) would have to prove that they had paid for cover from the fire department, at which point they would regain ownership of the property, or purchase the property from the fire department (in a less bureaucratic fashion than normal property purchase) for the cost of the cover from the fire department ($75?). If they do not pay within one month of the fire department taking ownership, the house would be auctioned at a property auction, once personal effects had been returned to the owner (The Fire Dpt. would only take ownership of the Building, not the Contents.)

Howsat sound?

(Idea loosely based on marine salvage, so that first sentence/question is now kinda void...)
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby JBJ » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:49 pm UTC

The ideal solution would be to pay into a county fire service from property taxes, which could be distributed to the closest municipal service. If you don't pay property taxes, you still get fire service, but you eventually lose your house to the taxing authority which recoups the back taxes via auction.

That gets rid of the sticky issue of the FD responding to a non-paying customer, but even through best efforts could not save the property.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Xeio » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:49 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
There is nothing barbaric about not doing your job because you aren't payed to do it.
If you are a public servant entrusted with carrying out lifesaving duties, then yes, there is. It's barbaric for a policeman to stand by while someone is murdered, or for an EMT to stand by while someone dies of a heart attack, because they weren't paid.
Good thing these weren't life saving duties then.

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:52 pm UTC

JBJ wrote:The ideal solution would be to pay into a county fire service from property taxes, which could be distributed to the closest municipal service. If you don't pay property taxes, you still get fire service, but you eventually lose your house to the taxing authority which recoups the back taxes via auction.

Yes, that seems like the best solution in this case.

Xeio wrote:Good thing these weren't life saving duties then.

Firefighting is a lifesaving duty in general. I mean, there could have been someone in the house.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Vaniver » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:58 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:But they still refused to put out the original fire, which I consider unethical.
I understand this is an emotionally satisfying approach. But we've put up enough signposts that you should be able to find your way to the adult world, where adults have to make difficult decisions that are more complicated than ethical and unethical.

Lazar wrote:As I said in my recent post, a civilized society should not provide services following a patchwork of property-based jurisdiction.
This is exactly what all civilized societies do (the jurisdictions may not change lot by lot, but there are hard boundaries between them). A society needs to exist because it can be civilized- and so if your definition of "civilization" precludes "existence" you don't have anything valuable to add to the conversation.

wst wrote:How about running the system like marine salvage?
While a possible alternative, there are troubling unintended consequences (combine arson with firefighting? Involuntary firefighting to grab property?). But there are specifically analogous marine salvage cases (a ship is on fire, for example) that may be useful here. My suspicion is those did not occur in common law (whereas the marine salvage did) because physical property, and the denizens thereof, are significantly different from naval property. The old standard of firefighting was very labor intensive- and so everyone in the community would jointly fight fires because that was the only way there was a chance of beating them. Now that there are professional firefighters, it seems sensible to treat it like any other profession- and so the marine salvage laws seem appropriate.

It would probably help them quite a bit to have a legal claim to compensation if they put out a fire- but it may not be enough to actually decrease default rates.

Lazar wrote:Firefighting is a lifesaving duty in general. I mean, there could have been someone in the house.
Do we have any reason to expect they didn't check that now? And why would we want to incentivize risking people? ("No, Grandma's still stuck in the house. You should rush over here and put out the fire!")
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby savanik » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:59 pm UTC

Living out in rural areas, outside of a city jurisdiction, is tough. Sewage service? You need a septic tank, you need it properly treated, and then you need it pumped out every so often. Water? You might have water service available, if you're lucky. You just have to pay for a pipe run out to your property, meters set up, etc. Same deal for power. All of these are fairly expensive.

You are, of course, under no obligation to have any of these services, if you don't want to pay the fees. You can set up your own rainwater collection system, you can put up hand-made windmills on your property for power. Sewage is trickier, there's generally LOTS of state and federal guidelines if you want to process that yourself, since if you do it wrong you can contaminate groundwater. But it's still possible. Since he lived outside the city, he was under no obligation to pay for fire services. He could just as easily contracted with a private company instead of the government, or he could have invested in fire prevention for his own house in the form of fire extinguishers, a decent water supply and the like. He failed to do any of these.

If he'd lived in the city, they would have provided all of these for him. In return, he'd have to adhere to city laws, taxes, building codes and fees. Many people living out in these rural areas don't want to deal with that sort of governmental oversight in the first place. That's why they moved there.

So if there's any libertarian / tea partier in the story, it's the guy whose house burned down. And is now complaining about the government not stepping in to save property they're not responsible for. Irony abounds. At least the city government can't step in and condemn his property after his poor management skills have allowed it to fall into disrepair.

I personally feel that people should be able to have as much freedom as they want. Then they need to take responsibility for that freedom. You can't have one without the other.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Azrael » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:01 pm UTC

wst wrote:... or purchase the property from the fire department (in a less bureaucratic fashion than normal property purchase) for the cost of the cover from the fire department ($75?)

The $75 is effectively an insurance premium, the actual costs of fighting a fire would be significantly more. Your general idea could work if the FD put a lien (or something like it) on the house for the value of the costs incurred fighting the fire.

Of course someone might actually *want* to refuse service, so that'd need to be taken into account. Still, completely feasible.

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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:05 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I understand this is an emotionally satisfying approach. But we've put up enough signposts that you should be able to find your way to the adult world, where adults have to make difficult decisions that are more complicated than ethical and unethical.

Could you provide a clear response instead of just insulting my maturity? Do you not believe that emergency responders have a responsibility to deal with emergencies that happen where they are present and capable of dealing with them? I do, and it's not because I have an infantile worldview.

This is exactly what all civilized societies do (the jurisdictions may not change lot by lot, but there are hard boundaries between them). A society needs to exist because it can be civilized- and so if your definition of "civilization" precludes "existence" you don't have anything valuable to add to the conversation.

Again, I'm not sure what you're saying here. Who said anything about not existing? What I see here is an existent society failing to provide essential public services to its residents.

Do we have any reason to expect they didn't check that now? And why would we want to incentivize risking people? ("No, Grandma's still stuck in the house. You should rush over here and put out the fire!")

I don't think that they should respond only if Grandma is in the house, any more than an EMT should only respond if someone is at immediate risk of dying (cf. a very serious but non-life-threatening injury). I'll revise my assessment of "lifesaving services" to read "essential emergency services".
Last edited by Lazar on Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:13 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Роберт » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:10 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:Firefighting is a lifesaving duty in general. I mean, there could have been someone in the house.

You really like that strawman.
engr wrote: And if you don't pay and your house catches on fire, fire department will only do what's necessary to save residents' lives (regardless if they paid the fee or not) and to stop fire from spreading to other houses.

And don't say "what if their was a person in the house no one knew about", because I will suggest that it is dangerous for garbage trucks to operate without checking for people in the trash bins first. If you don't make reasonable assumptions than you can't efficiently do anything.
Lazar wrote: Do you not believe that emergency responders have a responsibility to deal with emergencies that happen where they are present and capable of dealing with them?
Correct. Although I don't think it would necessarily be immoral if they decided to help, it's certainly not their responsibility to in some cases.
Last edited by Роберт on Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:13 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Pay, No Spray

Postby Lazar » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:12 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:You really like that strawman.

Read my most recent post. By lifesaving, I should have said essential - i.e., public safety services that everyone should be entitled to in modern society. I beg your forgiveness.

Correct. Although I don't think it would necessarily be immoral if they decided to help, it's certainly not their responsibility to in some cases.

Well, thanks for making that clear, at least. Myself, I would prioritize humanity over money - I think if you come to the scene (even to deal with a notionally separate emergency, as in this case), you had better be willing to assist.
Last edited by Lazar on Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:16 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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