Owner Didn't Pay Fee, So Firefighters Let Home Burn Obion County, Tenn., is not a place that often generates national news. But the rural community has been thrust into the spotlight after firefighters refused to extinguish a house fire because the owner hadn't paid the required $75 fee to the city fire department.
NPR logo

Owner Didn't Pay Fee, So Firefighters Let Home Burn

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130435529/130435509" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Owner Didn't Pay Fee, So Firefighters Let Home Burn

Owner Didn't Pay Fee, So Firefighters Let Home Burn

Owner Didn't Pay Fee, So Firefighters Let Home Burn

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/130435529/130435509" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Obion County, Tenn., is not a place that often generates national news. But the rural community has been thrust into the spotlight after firefighters refused to extinguish a house fire because the owner hadn't paid the required $75 fee to the city fire department.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Chad Lampe of member station WKMS explains.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CRACKLING FIRE)

CHAD LAMPE: Unidentified Man #2: The city manager will make a statement in the morning. You all need to see him in his office.

LAMPE: The fire started in a burn barrel by a shed outside Paulette and Gene Cranick's home. They weren't there, only their 21-year-old grandson, Lance, who also lives there. He set the fire to burn some garbage and then went inside for a quick shower.

LANCE CRANICK: When I got out of the shower, I heard kind of like a popping noise. I looked out the kitchen window and the shed here was already pretty much engulfed in flames. You know, there really wasn't no saving it. But the corner of the house wasn't on fire at the time. And I ran out, you know, kind of started spraying, you know, the water hose and I called 911.

LAMPE: The Cranicks lost everything including three dogs and a cat. Lance now lives with his mother and his grandparents live in a camper, a stone's throw from the charred frame of their former home. Now they look at the twisted metal of their old bed frame and a blackened washer and dryer.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

LAMPE: At a downtown restaurant, it was easy to find people with opinions on the matter.

JEANNIE BYRD: I would not let anybody's house burn down, I don't care what.

LAMPE: That's Jeannie Byrd. Another diner, Michael Prince, agrees.

MICHAEL PRINCE: I think morally, the right thing would have been to put the fire out.

LAMPE: It's unclear if firefighters have ever done this before, although Todd Cranick, Paulette and Gene's son, claims it happened to his brother in 2005. City Manager Danny Vowell(ph) wouldn't confirm that.

DANNY VOWELL: No comment.

LAMPE: Al Rosamond heads the Tennessee branch of the National Volunteer Fire Council. He says, over time, he's learned how to make people pay fee - even when it's less than the Cranick's.

AL ROSAMOND: We found out that people on an annual basis would not or could not make that $50 commitment. So we broke that $50 down into four twelve and a half dollar payments, and increased the income to the fire department by almost 400 percent.

LAMPE: Rosamond says though, his department would still fight any fire. He adds, the South Fulton fire was unfortunate but the homeowner knew the risk in not paying or forgetting to pay his subscription fee.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

LAMPE: The Cranick's son, Todd, says insurance will cover about 80 percent of rebuilding his parents' home. But the most valuable things can't be replaced.

TODD CRANICK: My mom lost her mother's Bible and her daddy's Bible. Dad lost his mother's Bible and his favorite aunt's Bible.

LAMPE: For NPR News, I'm Chad Lampe in Murray, Kentucky.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.