Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Meaford Fire Department is having its day in court again this week. You can read a bare bones update here. I've already said as much as is wise for someone who knows little about the incident, but I will reiterate my opinion that 1.5 million dollars - which is the maximum fine the municipality could face - would be much more effectively diverted into the veins of the fire service, rather than squandered as a punitive measure against Meaford Fire Department. You can read some of my previous opinions about the issue here and here.

On another controversial topic (that is receiving much more attention than the Meaford trial), a Tennessee department responded to a fire, then refused to put it out because the owner had not paid the subscription fee. You can read the story here. The same department faced the same issue last year, and responded in the same manner. They showed up and watched the house burn. You can read my thoughts on that incident in my Fire Prevention Week post from last year.

I find it interesting that the owner didn't pay because she didn't expect her house to catch fire. Kind of like not wearing a seat belt because you don't expect to crash.

As can be expected, the world is polarized on this issue (just read the comments on the news stories). Also as can be expected, I see the merits of both polarized views. Upsala is surrounded by area not served by any fire department. We don't always respond to these areas when requested, but if decide to go, we always protect whatever we can. And we always send a bill for service. It's a bad system in more ways than I care to discuss here and now, but it won't go away without a legislation change. . . which is about as likely as Dalton McGuinty showing up in Upsala for a dunk tank fundraiser.

To sum up my opinions on this issue, the only final fix is to expand fire protection boundaries, and require homeowners to pay through the tax system. Some see it as a radical thing to even imagine, and others can't imagine that such basic protection isn't automatically mandated like police and ambulance. The firefighters on the ground don't care. They joined to serve regardless of politics and opinions. The worst part is when they are are dragged into the controversy.

Someday when I'm King of the World, things will be different. When three services are required, three services will be able to respond without fretting about legalities and money. Legalities and money have a place in the fire service, as they do in the rest of the world, but when they elbow their way front and centre at an emergency scene, they are a distraction at best and a hazard at worst.

To finish on a slightly less controversial story, a New Jersey department rescued a flying squirrel a couple weeks ago. Add it to the controversial list of mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds that firefighters are called to handle. Some say it isn't our job. Some say it is. Regardless, when firefighters are called, they will respond and do what they can . . . and sort out the legalities later. 


  1. I would have expected that the woman in question here was already paying higher insurance premiums because she didn't have Fire Protection coverage. So essentially she decided to swap protection costs for replacement costs.

    Ultimately, I don't see that she has any grounds for complaint. She made a decision about which way she wanted to go, now she can deal with the repercussions.

    That being said, I'd have a helluva time not putting out a fire if we responded to it. It sounds like a breakdown on the Dispatch side of things - the department should not be paged out to a no-coverage location - what happens if there had been another call at the same time at a place that had coverage?

  2. You've nailed it on the head. The homeowner is responsible . . . and I can't imagine standing by while the place burns down . . . even though the homeowner is responsible. No firefighter should be forced into that position.

  3. Yeah, it goes pretty hard against the grain and the optics are TERRIBLE. Somebody getting a picture of you standing around watching a place burn instantly undoes all the positive work you do for years.


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