IAFF Condemns Tenn. Dept's Decision Not to Fight Fire

The IAFF is condemning the recent decision by a Tennessee fire department to not respond to a house fire last week because of an unpaid rural fire subscription fee.

"The decision by the South Fulton Fire Department to allow a family's home to burn to the ground was incredibly irresponsible," General President Harold Schaitberger said in a statement. "Because of South Fulton’s pay-to-play policy, fire fighters were ordered to stand and watch a family lose its home."

Firefighters refused to fight a mobile home blaze on Sept. 29, citing an annual $75 rural fire subscription service the homeowner, Gene Cranick, failed to pay.

Cranick's doublewide home sits outside city limits but is protected by the South Fulton Fire Department for residents who pay the fee. The department did respond to a request to protect the property of the adjacent property owner, who paid the fee.

"We condemn South Fulton's ill-advised, unsafe policy," Schaitberger's statement continues. "(Firefighters) shouldn't be forced to check a list before running out the door to see which homeowners have paid up."

City Manager Jeff Vowell defended the policy in an interview with The Messenger following the incident.

"I have no problem with the way any of my people handled the situation. They did what they were supposed to do. It's a regrettable situation any time something like this happens."

The department's fire chief, David Wilds, was allegedly attacked inside the fire station by one of Cranick's family members hours after the blaze, the newspaper reported.

Timothy A. Cranick entered the station looking for Wilds, and when he identified himself he allegedly struck him. The fire chief was knocked down and was rendered virtually defenseless. The man was pulled off Wilds by other firefighters who restrained him until additional help arrived.

The chief's attacker was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault.

According to WPSD-TV, the Cranicks have received several thousand dollars from the insurance company to cover immediate costs and that plans have been made to cover all damage and property losses.