While Rome Burns

Ain’t it just like Mr. Ha-Ha to wait until I’ve posted a Pollyanna piece, in which I opine that things are more or less moving, if slowly, towards the okay, before he manifests an event that indicates that, to the contrary, the US is busily galloping, Dudley Do-Right style, towards the days of ancient Rome?

Yes, boys and girls, here in the good ol’ US of A last week, a passel of Tennessee firefighters stood around and watched a family’s home burn right down to the ground, because them folks hadn’t paid to the county a $75 annual “pay to spray” fee entitling them to fire protection.

The city of South Fulton, Tennessee assesses the fee on rural residents who live outside the city limits. When a household has not paid the fee, fire-fighters are required “by law” to not respond. “We have to follow the rules and the ordinances set forth to us, and that’s exactly what we do,” recited a robot who has taken the name Jeff Vowell, and assumed the position of South Fulton city manager.

So when Gene Cranick called the South Fulton firepeople to report that his property was aflame, and it was then determined that he had missed his 2010 “pay to spray” payment, firefighters told him to bugger off. Even when Cranick offered to pay whatever it might cost to extinguish the flames, he was told to get stuffed. Nobody showed up during the two hours that it took for the fire to creep from his yard to his house. Only once the flames spread from Cranick’s mobile home to some nearby property owned by somebody who had paid the fee, did firefighters respond. Once having arrived, the South Fulton hose-monkeys doused the moneyed flames, but let Cranick’s home burn.

[F]irefighters continued to let the flames rage at Cranick’s home.

“My neighbor called [the fire department], saying whatever it takes, we want them to put it out, we’ll pay $500,” said Cranick. “They told us, ‘It’s too late.'”

This is actually a regression from the days of ancient Rome, when Marcus Lucinius Crassus made his fortune by tooling around the city with his private 500-man crew of firefighters; while a home went up in smoke, he negotiated with the owners of both the home and the surrounding structures to purchase these properties for a modest fee, in exchange for dousing the flames. From this he went on to become the richest man in Rome.

Crassus parlayed his wealth into a seat in the Roman Senate. In exchange for putting down the slave rebellion led by Spartacus, Crassus elbowed closer to the dictatorship that was his goal by entering into the Republic-spurning “First Triumvirate” with Pompey and Caesar. After the deaths of Crassus and Pompey, it was Caesar who became dictator of Rome. And from there it was on to Gibbon Decline and Fall territory.

Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, and a couple thousand years later, Gene Cranick’s son is today in the pokey, because he became so exercised with the hose-monkeys who wouldn’t douse his house that he sought out and punched the fire chief. He now faces charges of aggravated assault.

“I lost everything in the house,” the elder Cranick told ABC News. Including, “three puppies that belonged to my grandkids.”

The self-appointed arbiter of our nation’s morality, Glenn Beck, rushed to the airwaves to bless the firefighters for their inaction.

The conservative commentator Glenn Beck insisted the issue is not one of “compassion, compassion, compassion,” but of paying the $75. Putting out the fire absent the annual fee would have left the Cranicks “sponging off” neighbors who had paid, he said, and invited others to shirk their fees. The South Fulton Fire Department ingloriously made the same point, turning on the hoses when the fire spread to the field of a neighbor who was, yes, in good standing.

In “honor” of all these hosebags, some early Robin Williams, as Elmer Fudd, singing “Fire.”

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3 Responses to “While Rome Burns”


  1. 1 Elva October 8, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I just read the story about this fire and thought to myself, what a shame to let a house burn for such a stupid law. Glenn Beck is such an idiot.

  2. 3 Elva October 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

    No, I have not watched his show. I am sure it is on a channel that I do not receive, but am sure my neighbors watch the show.


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