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(Yahoo)   Firefighters to homeowner: We're really sorry your house burned down sir, oh by the way here's our bill for $20,000   (news.yahoo.com) divider line 180
    More: Asinine, Arizona Senate, Rural/Metro, unincorporated areas, fire departments, Rural Metro Fire Department  
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10512 clicks; posted to Main » on 07 Nov 2013 at 7:20 AM (49 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



180 Comments   (+0 »)
   
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2013-11-07 01:20:48 PM  

Endive Wombat: Can this also be explained as a weird accounting method?  Let me explain:

Occasionally we will read stories here on Fark where a home burns down and Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, etc. will then send a bill in full for their equipment - so the cable boxes, externally attached conversion boxes on the side of the house, modems, etc. amounting to hundreds if not a couple thousand dollars...

It seems outrageous to send a bill like this to a resident who just lost their home and all their possessions, but the intent is for them to send the bill directly to their own homeowners insurance policy, and let them work it out with the cable provider.

So could that be what is happening here?  Perhaps the rural fire departments/counties lack the resources to chase money down from the insurance companies, so they kick the bill over to the homeowner who is simply supposed to pass said bill to their insurance company?


no, under normal circumstances, in municipality provided fire departments, there is no charge -- we don't bill insurance nor the homeowner.  This is apparently a private fire company, the free market approach if you will, which is charging for services
 
2013-11-07 01:21:52 PM  

fmk040: You have to pay for the farking fire department?!  WTF?  Is this a rural Arizona thing, or an 'America' thing?  North of the 49, we sure as hell don't pay the fire department except through taxes.

Someone please explain this 'paying for essential services' thing to me...I'm reeling for the sheer implausibility of it.


In unincoproated areas, the population density is too low to support municipal fire departments.  In these cases, either private or volunteer fire departments usually provide coverage.  In those cases, the l;andowners are not taxed for fire protection.
 
2013-11-07 01:22:18 PM  

Mikey1969: in his unincorporated area that has no fire coverage.

Sorry, dude... If I don't have health insurance and go in to find out why I'm pissing green pus, I'm going to get billed directly for all of the tests, even if they don't solve the problem.

Back in the 90's, a house burned to the ground in the middle of Tempe because that ONE homeowner refused to buy in when they moved to a city wide fire department. The only firefighting done there was to keep it from spreading to homes that WERE covered. It's how these things work.


In summary, decisions still have consequences. Surprise!
 
2013-11-07 01:28:22 PM  

fmk040: You have to pay for the farking fire department?!  WTF?  Is this a rural Arizona thing, or an 'America' thing?  North of the 49, we sure as hell don't pay the fire department except through taxes.

Someone please explain this 'paying for essential services' thing to me...I'm reeling for the sheer implausibility of it.


I am also amused by the 'I don't have to pay, except through taxes'  statement.
 
2013-11-07 01:48:54 PM  

Mikey1969: Sorry, dude... If I don't have health insurance and go in to find out why I'm pissing green pus, I'm going to get billed directly for all of the tests, even if they don't solve the problem.



If I go a soup kitchen and eat a meal, they can't stop me at the door and say "sorry we're low on staff today, we had to bring in some cooks from Boston Market, they'll be expecting your payment shortly".

In this case, that's exactly what happened, the free service (Surprise firefighters) requested resources from the expensive company (Rural Metro), and they're passing the bill on to the customer who had been told that the service had no additional cost.
 
2013-11-07 02:02:18 PM  

simusid: You're the jerk... jerk: Dufus: .

/served 22 years as a volunteer fireman and never got paid a cent

Is that common? I was talking to a volunteer firefighter the other day and they said they were in fact paid when called into service.

FWIW in MA, or at least in my town, volunteer FF are not paid for structure fires but they are paid for grass/forest fires.  It's not a lot though, definitely not $150/hour.


I wish I had gotten paid for those.

/brush fires in a Texas hill country summer are so not fun.
//1-2 structures a year, dozens of brush fires. Morons who set fire to their brush pile and then go inside for a beer.
 
2013-11-07 02:02:34 PM  

Gig103: What a freaking mess of a situation. My gut instinct was for him to STFU because he isn't paying taxes to support a fire department and wasn't complaining all those years of fire-free, low taxes. But then I kept reading and there was a vague reference to firefighting on his taxes, and the private company showed up after the city of Surprise responded.

The family's home insurance does not cover the charges.

That seems like a bad idea for someone in an area without a fire department. When I bought my house, I was asked on my homeowners insurance application the distance to the nearest responders - when he answered "There isn't one", you'd think the agent would have recommended some supplemental coverage. For all we know, they did and he declined it.



A lot of times people will say they are covered on the insurance, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.

As far as the rural department being "second in,"  it sounds to me like Surprise was the mutual aid department they called for help, and since they city happened to be closer they got there first (in some areas mutual aid is automatic).  As a city department, they also don't get paid for covering anyone outside city limits, so mutual aid allows them to respond (in other words, it's still due to the rural department that they show up at all).

This could still be a non profit department,  subscription is a way to provide fire service without a voter approved fire service area,  it basically is a fire service area for individual houses and houses that aren't covered get treated differently in each area.   In some places they won't fight the fire at all, and some they will and send a bill.

This bill does seem rather high to me, but that is up to the department to decide what to charge and if the people don't like it they really need to either start their own or vote in a real fire service area that gets taxpayer funding.  If this is really a for profit department, then the bill starts to make a lot more sense.  But in that case, there's not really anything to blame them for either.  If they have a full time staff, that can add up quickly and a small number of fires per year can translate into very high costs to operate on a fire.

I personally would pay the $500 and at the same time work to start a local volunteer department if I lived in that area.

Where I live, we didn't have fire service at all until a few years ago, but now there is a volunteer department.  Ours is subscription based as well, although our rates are much lower... so far some insurers have required people to subscribe and others have said they will pay our fees in the event of a fire.  Seems to vary by the company.  So far no one has been denied coverage where I'm at.

//volunteer
 
2013-11-07 02:15:20 PM  

the ha ha guy: Mikey1969: Sorry, dude... If I don't have health insurance and go in to find out why I'm pissing green pus, I'm going to get billed directly for all of the tests, even if they don't solve the problem.


If I go a soup kitchen and eat a meal, they can't stop me at the door and say "sorry we're low on staff today, we had to bring in some cooks from Boston Market, they'll be expecting your payment shortly".

In this case, that's exactly what happened, the free service (Surprise firefighters) requested resources from the expensive company (Rural Metro), and they're passing the bill on to the customer who had been told that the service had no additional cost.


No, they had no "free service", they weren't covered by a municipal fire service at all. There is a tax that helps fund volunteer fire departments, but if you specifically live in an unincorporated area that has no fire service, you're farked, period. Happens all of the time. We pay taxes for a reason, and this is why. As for why anybody responded at all, I'm not sure, but it has happened before, and it's totally legal; if your house is on fire, and you're not in an area that pays for fire service(This is by choice, BTW. All hail our Tea Party stalwarts!!), they will come and watch your house burn to the ground, just to make sure it doesn't catch your neighbor's house on fire who DID pay for coverage.
 
2013-11-07 02:30:33 PM  

xanadian: Surprise, Arizona, huh?  Surprise, indeed.


s17.postimg.org
 
2013-11-07 02:37:24 PM  
Surprise sounds like a libertarian paradise.
 
2013-11-07 02:37:54 PM  

Mikey1969: No, they had no "free service", they weren't covered by a municipal fire service at all.



The Surprise firefighters showed up and got the fire under control, the only thing Rural metro did was "mop up".
 
2013-11-07 02:57:09 PM  

the ha ha guy: Mikey1969: No, they had no "free service", they weren't covered by a municipal fire service at all.


The Surprise firefighters showed up and got the fire under control, the only thing Rural metro did was "mop up".


And there is no reason that the Surprise firefighters should have been there, since(As I have stated), they had no municipal coverage. Rural Metro was only there because they got called by Surprise for some reason. I don't like Rural Metro anyway, but it still stands that this guy had ZERO "free service". Ironically enough, he could have paid Rural Metro $500/year and saved all of this mess. In other words, nothing is "free".

 But until that time, residents of this unincorporated area have few options: Buy a yearly $500 subscription from Rural Metro for fire coverage, take the gamble of getting a bill if they have a house fire, or form their own fire district which could take months.
 
2013-11-07 02:59:29 PM  

lilbjorn: Surprise sounds like a libertarian paradise.


Lots of places have this. People don't want to pay for fire coverage, so they refuse to incorporate, there were 2 home owners in the center of Tempe,Az  tat made this choice. When one of these houses burned, the FD was on hand to make sure it didn't spread. Normally these uncovered homes are in remote rural areas, but this is not anything new. There is nothing "free". A part of your taxes go to Fire coverage, and if you are going to be an A-hole and refuse to pay those taxes, you're gonna be in for a surprise, so to speak...
 
2013-11-07 03:31:15 PM  

lilbjorn: Surprise sounds like a libertarian paradise.


Not at all.  A proper libertarian wouldn't have a private company able to come in and bill somebody for a service they didn't want.  That's something the fascists would do except if you disagree they'll have the cops come and kick your door in because fark you that's why.  Kind of like how things are these days.
 
2013-11-07 03:46:09 PM  
I don't understand this FTA: "Before the incident area residents thought they had fire coverage because they were paying a 'fire district assistance tax.' But it turns out that that is a countywide tax that funds volunteer fire districts." Does this mean that residents, living in an unincorporated area that is not in a volunteer or other fire district, are paying a tax for a service that they will/do not receive? Wouldn't this be like paying a sewer tax, but not having a sewer?

If they aren't covered by a fire district, why did the Surprise station respond?

Finally, if, as some have stated, the only reason that Rural responded was to protect their paying customers, wouldn't their actions be covered by said paying customers' contracts?

I just don't see how the homeowner here is legally responsible for paying Rural anything.
 
2013-11-07 04:24:04 PM  
$20K does seem a tad excessive.
 
2013-11-07 04:53:43 PM  

Tr0mBoNe: ArkAngel: Buy a yearly $500 subscription from Rural Metro for fire coverage, take the gamble of getting a bill if they have a house fire, or form their own fire district which could take months.

Less sympathy because of this, though without a written contract detailing their agreements with neighboring fire districts (and given the size of the bill) Metro may be SOL

I pay a little less than $400 a year for city fire service according to my tax breakdown... $500 seems reasonable for low density countryside.


True but the residents were already paying a fire tax. The Metro subscription is IN ADDITION to the annual taxes...

Also keep in mind that the Metro FD is privately-owned, not city-owned.

Third, Metro were not the first responders to the fire. They were invited in by the local FD.

There is no way in hell that Metro has a legitimate claim to charge the homeowner.
 
2013-11-07 04:57:19 PM  

TheBigJerk: So...this might be news to some but fires spread.


There have been stories about private fire departments that show up and don't touch the house on fire, and are on-call in case it spread to one of their clients. I remember one guy had refused to pay $75/yr or $75/mo (either way, why not?) and was crying when they let his house burn down.

This is NOT that situation though.
 
2013-11-07 06:41:43 PM  

MycroftHolmes: fmk040: You have to pay for the farking fire department?!  WTF?  Is this a rural Arizona thing, or an 'America' thing?  North of the 49, we sure as hell don't pay the fire department except through taxes.

Someone please explain this 'paying for essential services' thing to me...I'm reeling for the sheer implausibility of it.

I am also amused by the 'I don't have to pay, except through taxes'  statement.


*Shrug* It's miniscule enough per person that it hardly matters; it's an after thought, as is my statement re: taxes.  I'd rather not field of accusations of being disingenuous.

Furthermore, how is paying for essential services outside of taxes even a thing?  A privatized fire department makes absolutely no sense to me.  There are some pretty remote areas in SK as well, but they have volunteer firefighters: the equipment and building is maintained through municipal taxes, but the firefighters sure as hell don't charge victims of a blaze.  That is among the most callous things I have heard.
 
2013-11-07 07:36:13 PM  

NickelP: hailin: I absolutely do not feel sorry for these people. We have morons outside of fire juridiction do this every year. The refuse to buy a fire service subscription and then pay for the cheapest home owners insurance they can which usually does not cover fire damage. Then they scream bloody hell when they have a fire, have it put out, and get charged for it. Fark you people. Fire subscriptions help pay for training, equipment, and staff while allowing you a fairly low rate ($250 a year here) to protect yourself. Not getting it and then biatching when a fire happens is an asshat move.

I'm also laughing the article makes it seem $150 an hour is excessive for the hourly pay. Firefighters have to go through rigirous trainings, keep themselves in shape, work long hours, continue their education and endanger themselves everytime they go out on a call. $150 an hour is fair in my opinion.

I thought this was funny too.  Most mechanics here charge close to that.  A lawyer starts around double that.  And you need a farking appointment to see either and they probably aren't going to come to you.


Well, they don't get paid that.  I'm guessing that is the fully burdened rate + overhead.
 
pla
2013-11-07 09:56:30 PM  
"Yeah, about that bill?  Put a lien on the house.  Oh, wait, you let it burn to the ground.  Enjoy taking ownership of that quarter acre of backfilled swampland."

More seriously, I have to wonder about the legality of this situation.  If the homeowner didn't directly contract with the third party, what right do they have to bill him?  I mean, I may have missed a seriously awesome career opportunity here - Break into people's houses, install a small LAN for them against their will, and then send them a bill for $1500/hr plus $500 per drop.  Win/Win!
 
pla
2013-11-07 10:04:48 PM  
Mikey1969 : There is a tax that helps fund volunteer fire departments, but if you specifically live in an unincorporated area that has no fire service, you're farked, period. Happens all of the time. We pay taxes for a reason

So you pay (fire) taxes...
For "a reason"...
So VOLUNTEERS...
That don't serve your area...
Can... Um...
...Um...

Um.

Yeah, I can't quite get that to reach any sort of sane conclusion.  Someone want to help me out (for under $20k) here?
 
2013-11-07 10:14:28 PM  

pla: Mikey1969 : There is a tax that helps fund volunteer fire departments, but if you specifically live in an unincorporated area that has no fire service, you're farked, period. Happens all of the time. We pay taxes for a reason

So you pay (fire) taxes...
For "a reason"...
So VOLUNTEERS...
That don't serve your area...
Can... Um...
...Um...

Um.

Yeah, I can't quite get that to reach any sort of sane conclusion.  Someone want to help me out (for under $20k) here?


There has to be a volunteer fire department established in the area. They don't appear by default. The funding is there so that if a volunteer fire department is formed, they have some money available. They point is that they DON'T pay fire taxes, that is a tax that exists for everyone, but unincorporated areas can choose NOT to have actual fire coverage. Individual homeowners have even refused to become incorporated to avoid some of these taxesANd some of them have watched their homes burn, right alongside the firefighters they were too "Independent" to pay).

Is it really that deep of a concept?
 
2013-11-07 10:18:35 PM  

fmk040: You have to pay for the farking fire department?!  WTF?  Is this a rural Arizona thing, or an 'America' thing?  North of the 49, we sure as hell don't pay the fire department except through taxes.

Someone please explain this 'paying for essential services' thing to me...I'm reeling for the sheer implausibility of it.


Yes, when you live in an area that is NOT covered by a fire department, you do. People fight incorporation all of the time, just so they don't have to pay the increase in taxes. This, incidentally, includes fire services, but they don't care.

Until their house burns down

And no, it's not an "essential service". Staying alive is, and the firefighters will do their best to get you out of your house, but there is nothing "essential" about keeping your property intact.
 
2013-11-07 10:27:00 PM  
 
2013-11-07 10:33:33 PM  

stappawho: NickelP: hailin: I absolutely do not feel sorry for these people. We have morons outside of fire juridiction do this every year. The refuse to buy a fire service subscription and then pay for the cheapest home owners insurance they can which usually does not cover fire damage. Then they scream bloody hell when they have a fire, have it put out, and get charged for it. Fark you people. Fire subscriptions help pay for training, equipment, and staff while allowing you a fairly low rate ($250 a year here) to protect yourself. Not getting it and then biatching when a fire happens is an asshat move.

I'm also laughing the article makes it seem $150 an hour is excessive for the hourly pay. Firefighters have to go through rigirous trainings, keep themselves in shape, work long hours, continue their education and endanger themselves everytime they go out on a call. $150 an hour is fair in my opinion.

I thought this was funny too.  Most mechanics here charge close to that.  A lawyer starts around double that.  And you need a farking appointment to see either and they probably aren't going to come to you.

Well, they don't get paid that.  I'm guessing that is the fully burdened rate + overhead.


Even then, I suspect at 20k a pop they either don't face that many fires, or they're extorting.

OR, they stick folk with the bill as part of a negotiating tactic similar to, "I'll sue you out of house and home even though I'm in the wrong unless you settle out of court."
 
2013-11-08 12:00:36 AM  

fmk040: MycroftHolmes: fmk040: You have to pay for the farking fire department?!  WTF?  Is this a rural Arizona thing, or an 'America' thing?  North of the 49, we sure as hell don't pay the fire department except through taxes.

Someone please explain this 'paying for essential services' thing to me...I'm reeling for the sheer implausibility of it.

I am also amused by the 'I don't have to pay, except through taxes'  statement.

*Shrug* It's miniscule enough per person that it hardly matters; it's an after thought, as is my statement re: taxes.  I'd rather not field of accusations of being disingenuous.

Furthermore, how is paying for essential services outside of taxes even a thing?  A privatized fire department makes absolutely no sense to me.  There are some pretty remote areas in SK as well, but they have volunteer firefighters: the equipment and building is maintained through municipal taxes, but the firefighters sure as hell don't charge victims of a blaze.  That is among the most callous things I have heard.


You are stuck in some kind of weird cycle where you think that paying a fee and paying taxes to cover services are different.  That is why I found your Weeners amusing.

Essentially, fee for service is like tax for service, except you have the option to opt in or out.  Not sure why this is even remotely objectionable to you, but hey, some people prefer to pay more taxes and forego options.  I guess it takes all sorts.
 
2013-11-08 12:23:01 AM  
But Justin was in for another shock when two weeks later he received a bill from Rural Metro Fire Department, a private department, charging him ...
... The family's home insurance does not cover the charges....
Arizona State Senator Chester Crandell admitted that fire coverage in Arizona's rural areas is a mess ...
....residents of this unincorporated area have few options: Buy a yearly $500 subscription from Rural Metro for fire coverage, take the gamble of getting a bill if they have a house fire, or form their own fire district which could take months.


You know what would solve this?

That's right:

Eliminate capital-gains, inheritance, and corporate taxes. And scrap progressive income taxes in favor of flat taxes.
And funnel, via vouchers, all taxes for local schools through private, for-profit, unaccountable entrepreneurs ... come to think of it, universally place job-creating hard-nosed businessmen between the government collectors of taxes and the citizen taxpayers that money was collected to serve - they'll find innovative ways of extractive all of it into their own bank accounts heroically saving the public from becoming welfare-dependent leeches.

Oh - and deregulate all the things.
 
2013-11-08 06:48:00 AM  
Surprise firefighters leave surprise bill

Should have been OBVIOUS
 
2013-11-08 12:32:03 PM  

You're the jerk... jerk: Dufus: .

/served 22 years as a volunteer fireman and never got paid a cent

Is that common? I was talking to a volunteer firefighter the other day and they said they were in fact paid when called into service.


Probably not any more, depends on the department. Ours was a full volunteer financed by donations only until around 1979.
It was a poor department and we did it because it had to be done. We had home built (fitted) trucks with tanks made for us by a nearby shipyard and donated. It wasn't unusual for several of us to buy our own gear.
 
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