Tennessee Firemen ignore burning house over unpaid subscription feeFiremen responding to an emergency call watched a house burn down because its owners had not paid a $75 local fire subscription fee.
Gene and Paulette Cranick, of South Fulton, Tennessee, US, lost their home after officers were ordered by bosses not to extinguish it.
Fire fighters only arrived when the flames spread to the property of a neighbour, who had paid the fee. However, they continued to refuse to help the Cranicks.
Later the same day, the couple's 44-year-old son was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, after allegedly punching the local fire chief.
Jeff Vowell, the city manager of South Fulton, said: "It's a regrettable situation any time something like this happens." Mr Vowell explained that there was no county-wide fire service and it was too expensive for the city's officers to serve surrounding rural areas like the Cranicks' as well.
Rural residents can gain access to the service by paying the annual fee. But "if they choose not to," Mr Vowell said, "we can't make them".
Mr Cranick said: "I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong." His wife said the couple had offered to pay the fire fighters whatever was necessary for them to extinguish the flames, but the officers refused.
However they do not blame the officers themselves, she said. "They're doing what they are told to do. It's not their fault." The Mayor of South Fulton, David Crocker, told local reporters: "We're very sorry their house burned."
However he too stood by the subscription policy, arguing that offering a pay-as-you-go service would mean upfront costs could not be met.
About three hours after the fire began, Mr Cranick's son Timothy allegedly arrived at the South Fulton fire station and asked for Mr Wilds, the fire chief.
It is alleged that when Mr Wilds came forward and asked if he could help, Mr Cranick punched him. "He just cold-cocked him," Mr Crocker said.
Mr Cranick allegedly had to be pulled off Mr Wilds by other firefighters, after having knocked him to the ground. The 44-year-old is said to have been taken to hospital after injuring his hand committing the alleged assault.
Mr Wilds was said by officials to be "doing OK". The Cranicks are temporarily staying in a mobile home.