South Fulton, Tennessee. Population 2,517. Salute!

Headline: Tennessee Home Burns as Firefighters Watch

Near the rural town of South Fulton, Tenn., outlying homeowners are required to pay a subscription fee to subsidize the fire department. But when that $75 annual fee goes unpaid, homeowners like Vicky Bell find out the hard way what noncompliance entails.

I am sure everyone has heard about this. Mobile home on the outskirts of town catches fire. The resident calls the fire department.  One would expect the first thing that happens is that the fire-fighters don their gear, rush to the house and put out the fire.

But not in South Fulton. There has to be a check on the status of the payment of the annual fee to determine if the resident is worth the effort. If not, the fire fighters can go and water down adjacent properties to protect them – assuming they paid their dues – and I guess just sit around and have a grand old time watching the fire.  Fires are fun to watch, right?

Oh, if anyone is in danger, then they would help.  But how they could know this without doing anything, I do not know.

Am I saying they should have helped those people who did not pay their dues?  The free-loaders? The moochers? Well, yes. No matter how red their county is human decency should be the rule.

But what about the money? That is the most important thing, right? One answer: in Tulsa, our ambulance service has a very reasonable monthly fee added to the city water bill which, if paid, pays for the services.  Those not on the monthly plan still get service, but have to pay for it after the fact.  No one asks for the money up front. I do not know what the collection results are, but that is beyond the point.

I worked at a record store for a few years.  The first Christmas season, I got to the store early with some lunch to eat and sat on a bench outside the store in full view of my boss, who was working as fast as he could trying to deal with the unexpected early rush of people. He was not keeping up.  When I finished my lunch, I sat and read the newspaper until straight-up noon, when my shift started.  I was lucky I wasn’t fired.  He lit into me for being so thoughtless as to let him struggle while I ate in peace.  He said if I hadn’t been there and hadn’t known, that was one thing, but to have sat and watched exhibited a total lack of character and concern and he was going to his office to decide if I should be fired or not.  It wasn’t the first or last time he had to mull that decision over and I learned a great deal about working from him.  I never did that or anything like that again.  I cannot sit idly by anymore.

When I was making the rounds trying to get a job at what was then called the “Big 8″ accounting firms – the largest of their kind in the nation, one stop was at one of them in Tulsa.  These in-house visits occur after an on-campus interview because they liked you enough to bring you in for a day of interviews with various levels of staff, from the newbies to partners.  If all goes well and everyone you spoke with gives you a thumbs-up, you find yourself sitting in the managing partner’s office at the end of the day. Unless you do or say something really stupid at this point, you are going to get a job offer. I was kind of excited because I wanted to live in Tulsa and this was a really well-respected firm.

His office had windows facing west, a really great view of the river; and north, a not so great view of what was then a derelict part of Tulsa across the railroad yard.  There were lots of abandoned buildings there.  He was standing and looking out at them when I was ushered in.  He shook my hand, turned back to the north and said something like, ” It used to be fun to look north in the evenings.  The bums would start fires to stay warm and sometimes things would get out of hand and a building would catch fire.”

I thanked him for the interview and told him that during the visit, I had come to the decision I did not want to work for his firm. He was a more than a little put back and spent a few minutes digging around for why, but I never said. I still think he was too weird to work for, but then, the managing partner at the firm I started with was an odd duck also, so maybe it just goes with the territory.

In the early history of the Christian Church, the following was taught:

That the saints may enjoy their beatitude more thoroughly, and give more abundant

thanks for it to God, a perfect sight of the punishment of the damned is granted them. (Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, Supplementum Tertia Partis, Question 94, Article 1.)

This was taught by Jonathan Edwards and Matthew Henry and some current preachers and writers.  Best as I can tell, it is based on a few verses in the Bible (aren’t all uncomfortable teachings?).  A couple are below.  There are others, not many, but they are there to be found.

Isaiah 14: 15, 16:Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider.

Luke 13:28:There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

Luke 16:19-31 (The Rich Man and Lazarus)And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.


Well, The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. Right? Thank God, no, or we would still be putting to death children who hit their parents, blasphemers, Sabbath breakers (no more NFL?), and so on.

Point is, the church generally got away from its position that there is joy and comfort in watching the suffering of others ( yeah, I know there are still some who believe that, just as there are some that still believe the earth has four corners because the Bible says so and there is just no reasoning there).

We are better than that. Hear me, South Fulton? We are better than that.  Not everything revolved around money.  Even if you think it is the homeowner’s own fault for not paying their dues and the result of their not paying was loss of their home, and that they got what they deserved, we are better than that.

At least I hope so.

2 thoughts on “South Fulton, Tennessee. Population 2,517. Salute!

  1. During a previous fire, not only were material possessions destroyed, but the Cranick family also had three dogs and one cat killed as South Fulton Firefighters stood by. They do have a policy that allows for the owner of burning property to pay a fee after the firefighters arrive; I believe another article stated it was a cool $2,200 for the first 2 hours the firefighters are on scene. Perhaps that sum seems reasonable in Tennessee, but around these parts, the term rural is usually, unfairly or not, synonymous with poor. The International Association of Fire Fighters (whatever that is) has condemned the policy of this backwater town, so perhaps an intervention by the state of Tennessee is forthcoming. We shall see.

  2. So sad the greed of money comes frist I for one will stay away from Tenn. until someone with a brain will step in and fix this backward town. And they wonder why the term redneck is giving to people like them. The mayor has no real clue or anyone on the city board is just as greedy and blind to let your fellow mans home burn when the fire trucks are there is just so unreal. I emailed the state and told them I will not drive thur or buy anything made in that state I think a boycott is called for so show support for those homes that were lost and the familys with no home. What a great Chrismas they will havve while the mayor sit in his nice warm home with his family. So sad and to think they are Americans too.

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