If you’re a Canadian, I want you to send a letter of thanks to your local emergency personnel. Police, firefighters, emts, it doesn’t matter. Send them a thank you card with a gift certificate for Tim Horton’s. Thank them, love them and let them know they’re appreciated even when they mess up. These men and women work hard to keep us safe, save lives and to give some dignity to those who died violently. Thank them.

In years past I had a tradition of baking something every Christmas Eve for a firefighter centre not far from where I lived. I’ve changed that and now give them a box of coffee stuff from Tim Horton’s. I want them to know I appreciate them. Especially at this time of year when tragedy can strike so easily with just a miswired Christmas tree. I know if anything should happen, I can count on them to come into the scene and help me and my loved ones. I can sleep easy at night knowing they’re there.

Now, imagine if they weren’t there. Or, rather, imagine if they were there, but refused to help you because you didn’t pay a “fee”. In South Fulton, Tennessee, that’s exactly what happened. I encourage you to go read the Local 6 WPSD story. Please don’t make the mistake I initially made and blame the firefighters. That’s easy and seems fairly clear. These are professionals paid to put out a fire. However, they’re not the demons here. Yes, it’s easy to be angry at them because they’re right there. Right there watching a couple’s home burn to the ground. They’re not to blame.

Let’s look at the truth of what happened. According to Local 6 WPSD, the city of South Fulton, Tennessee forces those who live in nearby counties to pay a fee of $75 per year to get firefighting protection. It costs money to run a fire department and sometimes taxes doesn’t cover everything. Here in Canada some smaller communities have gotten very creative with raising money for their volunteer fire departments. They hold barbeques, fundraisers or learn to stretch dollars. In South Fulton the mayor opted for extortion.

Okay, here’s how it works. If you live in a nearby county, you have to pay $75 per year to get firefighting protection. This fee works on a similar concept of buying condoms; you don’t think AIDS can happen to you, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t pay the fee, you don’t get protection. I hear the mafia works on a similar principle.

What happens, though, if you can’t pay the fee? $75 may not seem like a lot to the average citizen, but for some folks it’s the difference between having heat or power or food for another month. In a country that does not have a centralized health care system like Canada, it can also mean the difference between your child seeing a doctor or not.

Well, South Fulton does have a mayor, David Crocker. Surely he cares about the situation? Nope. I’ve read at least half a dozen stories and can’t find a single word of sympathy from this goon. All the quotes I have seen added up to basically a pay or you don’t get protection. Surely there’s got to be a better way. Don’t want to raise taxes? Why not train a volunteer firefighter squad to take up some of the slack? Still don’t want to raise taxes? Why not do fundraisers? Going through your files to decide whose house or lives get saved and whose doesn’t isn’t a way to run a firefighter department.

I did try to get in touch with the city of South Fulton. Go ahead. Google it. Their website comes up as a test page for the Apache HTTP server, whatever the heck that is. Try googling the fire department. You’ll get a page selling cell phones. So, if anyone can forward this blog on to them, I’d love to have a few thousand questions answered.

So far this situation with their fire department has happened twice. The fire department has been amazingly lucky in that no one has been hurt. Yet. However, what happens when parents who haven’t paid the fee watch their children trapped inside their home, unable to help? Will the powers that run this department still order their men to stand down while innocents die? It hasn’t happened yet, but if this situation continues, it will.

In this situation I urge everyone who reads this story to NOT blame the firefighters. They followed orders as much as it may have hurt them to do so. Let’s place the blame squarely on the shoulders of those who are running this gong show. Mayor David Crocker (Mayor Crock-o-Shit is more like it), the fire department chief, the local and state governments. Let’s blame them.

Let’s see what this “Pay for Spray” thing has cost;

  • Stress to the fire crew when they have to watch a fire burn out of control when they know they can stop it – unknown
  • Family mementos that cannot be replaced – unknown
  • Clothing, furniture, household items, day-to-day items – unknown
  • Stress to the county when they realize they’re being extorted for protection money – unknown
  • A place you couldn’t pay me to live in – priceless

This Christmas I’m going to get a nice Tim Horton’s gift certificate for my local firefighters. I don’t send food any more, I learned that gift certificates are the best thing. Here in Canada we may not have the best funded emergency crews, they may struggle from time to time to keep up. However, I cannot even begin to imagine a single Canadian emergency crew officer ordering his crew to stand down during an emergency.

Maybe that’s the difference between Canada and the United States.