I assume by now that everyone and their uncle has read about Gene Cranick, the West Tennessee man who did not pay his $75 fire subscription fee — and so, when his house caught fire, the fire department stood around and watched it burn.
I am really torn on this. On the one hand, I understand the mayor's position. If you don't pay the fee, you don't get fire protection. Your stupid decision, your loss. On the other hand, we live in a society. No asshole is an island. Does Cranick really have the right to refuse fire protection for his whole family? Does he really have the right to put his neighbors' property in danger? Or what if it went wild? Does he have a right to put the whole county or, heck, western part of the state at risk?
Yes, it would seem that putting out fires of people who hadn't paid the fee would just encourage everyone to not pay the fee until they needed fire protection. But check out our state law (68-102-121):
Officer may remedy dangerous conditions at expense of owners. —
If any party fails to comply with the order as modified on appeal by the court or the commissioner, and within the time fixed by either of them, then the officer is empowered to cause the building or premises to be repaired, torn down, demolished, materials removed and all dangerous conditions remedied, as the case may be, at the expense of the party or parties.
That law deals specifically with buildings that are a fire hazard but have not yet caught fire. So it's not applicable in this case. But doesn't it seem like this approach could work in a fire situation as well? This may be a new state law we need: If fire protection is available to you by subscription and you refuse to pay for it and the fire department has to come to your house to remedy that dangerous condition, you're going to be charged for it — the cost of work missed (assuming the firefighters are volunteers), the cost of running the truck or trucks, the labor, etc.
A modest proposal: Make it costly — say, $10,000. That way, it makes more sense to just subscribe and pitch in — but people aren't left with no way to save their homes if they discover they're married to a fire-defying dumbass, and their neighbors aren't put at higher risk while the fire is left to just burn itself out.