When Politics and Ethics Collide

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Weekly Blog Posts

Ethics. We all have them. Every business needs them. What happens when the two collide? I would venture to say firefighters in a rural Tennessee community witnessed the collision first hand, and unfortunately, I think they let the lesser of the two trump their ethics.

First, you have to understand the situation. Gene Cranick, a citizen of Obion County, Tennessee failed to pay the $75 annual fee for around the clock fire protection. And wouldn’t you know it, the poor fella’s house caught fire on September 29, 2010. Now we have the premise for the ensuing sticky situation.

Chiefs and black hats (firefighters) from the nearby city of South Fulton, TN responded but did not put out the blaze. Why? Remember Mr. Cranick was deliquent on his fire dues. The ethical dilemma facing the firemen was whether or not to let the house burn in front of their eyes over $75. Well, they did (although certainly under orders from their superior officers, i.e. the Fire Chief).

“Anybody that’s not inside the city limits of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer. Either they accept it [and pay] or they don’t,” said South Fulton Mayor David Crocker. Yeah, but Mr. Mayor this person’s house was on fire. “The fault is the failure of the Cranick family to pay that subscripton [for fire protection],” said Bob Reavis, chief of the Hornbeak Volunteer Fire Department. Yeah, but chief it’s $75, and the Cranick’s had dogs and cats in the house…that was on fire…in front of you…while you had a fire truck.

Firefighters on the scene made certain to protect the fence line and the structures adjacent to the Cranick’s, but watched the fire building burn to the ground. Where should ethics have trumped politics here? The IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) took the moral high road and said, “because of South Fulton pay-to-play policy, firefighters were ordered to stand and watch a family lose its home.” Brutal.

As a firefighter, and even if I was a political figure such as the fire chief or mayor, I’m not sure I could watch a family lose its home when I possessed the means to quickly mitigate the problem; that is putting water on the fire. I get that politics and taxes and fees play a role in the fire service and local government, but should it to the point $75 decides whether or not a house fire is extingushed? It’s $75. I’ve spent $75 on a single meal before.  This was certainly an ethical dilemma faced by the fire department, but I think the firefighters and command staff at the blaze should have hung Cranick’s failure to pay and put out the fire. I bet he would have paid the town back,  and the Mayor would have got over it.

Maybe I’m off my rocker, but I doubt it.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,



     Photo via Paul Jones


  1. manninghmorgan says:

    Not off your rocker at all, dude. When I was a little kid my dad used to say a quote by a guy named Sir Edmond Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” He wanted me to understand that quote and live it too. Unfortunately in this situation some good men did in fact do nothing. I’m all for paying your bills and following laws, but surely exceptions can be made now and then. I highly doubt $75 was going to make or break the city.

    P.S. I read one of your other blogs where you mentioned Dave Ramsey… Huge fan, that guy is a genius. Good read, Levi.

    • Thank you for reading. I think Burke was right and I think you’re right also. Can’t fathom, as a firefighter, watching a house burn over $75.

      Dave Ramsey should be Secretary of the Treasury. Might solve all of society’s financial woes. Just kidding, but seriously, he would.

  2. cam9255 says:

    Great blog. I have never heard of fire departments charging fees like that before. I do not think charging a fire protection fee is ethical, isn’t that what paying taxes are for. I definitely think the situation could have been handled differently.

    • Well, a fee like this is unique. I imagine it was a VERY rural area outside city or town limits. In order to have to pay taxes, the department must be a fire district. Fire districts rely on tax payers for funding, while non-fire districts rely on fish frys, pancake breakfasts, etc for funding. At any rate, I agree, to let a house burn over an unpaid fee is unethical, period.

  3. lstum27 says:

    I personally love this blog post! It’s funny and you put humor into it. The words you used kept me interested in the writing. This is also a great example of ethics in the business world.

  4. necelynn says:

    Wow, that’s crazy about the pay part. I mean i dont think about grabbing money when i run out of the house when fire is a foot. Plus im all for animalas, so this fact they where in the house and nobody went and got then over $75, I hope PETA took some action about that.

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