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MCCULLOUGH: Fire protection takes on new meaning in Tennessee

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

I can’t believe I live in a world in which firefighters will stand by and watch a home burn to the ground over $75.

It happened last week in Obion County, Tennessee. The Cranick family forgot to pay their protection, uh, that is, “fire subscription fee” to the Obion County Fire Mafia, er, Department, so when the Cranicks called 911 for help they got none.

In this particular rural area, residents have to pay this $75 fee for fire service from the neighboring city. Fine. Makes sense. Your area doesn’t have a fire department, you have to pay someone. And the Cranicks had in the past.

But this time they forgot. The consequence of that oversight is the loss of their home. The punishment does not fit the crime, and no one will convince me otherwise.

Good God Almighty, we’re talking about someone’s home! People were standing by with open checkbooks, begging firefighters — who were there only to protect neighboring households that had paid the fee — please, put out the fire.

Nope. Gotta pay the fee up front. They didn’t, so we gotta follow orders.

Hang your orders. I’ve grown weary of listening to that chant of “just following orders.” Where is our backbone in this country anymore? Where is the sense of right and wrong? Is there no one willing to stand up to misguided authority? Have we grown so fearful of our bosses that we are willing to watch a fellow human being’s home burn to the ground for fear of getting disciplined or fired?

And answer this, Obion firefighters: What if the Cranicks had been trapped inside? Would you have let them burn up, too, like you did their pets?

Are you public servants entrusted with protecting citizens or mafia goons on a shakedown? Did something not gnaw at your gut and heart while you stood by and watched this family lose everything over 75 measly dollars? Did it not offend your basic sense of decency? Is teaching a lesson, making an example, is that what’s important?

Is that what you got in the business for? And let’s be honest — it is obviously not public safety in your neck of the woods. It’s business. And the Cranicks didn’t fork over the $75, so the hell with them, right?

I’m sure we’ll hear all the we’re-very-sorries and it’s-just-a-tragic-situations from all the appropriate officials. They’ll remind us that it’s been the rule for 20 years, and they paid it in the past, and everyone else pays, etc., etc.

It’s all someone blowing smoke.

You should’ve put the fire out. Period. Charge the Cranicks the fee afterward. Fine them for forgetting. But you should’ve put the fire out. Someone in that group should’ve taken the lead and said, “Fire me if you have to, but I’m not going to stand here and watch this house burn.”

But no one did. And now the Cranicks are living in a camper.

Over $75.

I hope your department gets everything it’s got coming. I hope the media rakes you over the coals for your petty lunacy. I hope you become the pariahs of the Western world. I’m glad one of the Cranicks punched one of you in the face.

And to the readers of this paper, the next time you pass by a fire station, thank God you don’t live in Obion County, Tennessee.

Because there, if you don’t pay your protection, He’s the only one you can call.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.