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People who don't want to pay for our services

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  • #31
    Originally posted by mcwops View Post
    Good luck with that one. Would you allow homeowners to refuse your assistance? How dare you show up and spray water and use tools without their consent. What if a neighbor was the one who called in the fire, would you charge the person requesting your assistance, or the homeowner. Could the homeowner then sue the neighbor for those expenses?

    Talk about a can of worms.
    How about this one?

    The department responds to a structure fire. On arrival, the first due reports flames visible, front-central part are of the home.

    The Engine Officer is immediately confronted as he dismounts the engine by an individual claiming to be the homeowner. The individual states that he did not call the fire department, does not want their services and wants them to leave at once.

    You're the Officer: Do you...

    1) Have your crew load up and leave
    2) Ignore the individual and initiate scene control and suppression
    3) Tell him to go to hell and kick his ...
    4) Request Law Enforcement
    5) Ask him if everyone is out of the structure

    I, and many of you, have been on this one before... and it never ends good for somebody.

    We are compelled to act without regard as to whether an owner wishes us to stand down. We have the responsibility to control the situation and further to protect additional exposures (houses).

    Even when a homeowner believes he does not need us, we still have to consider that we do have a responsibility to a potential insurance company. We don't have time to ask if they are insured, we must assume it. But this still does not matter since our job is to protect everyone and everything. Despite the order to leave, and sometimes under threat, we still have our responsibility.

    In most states, it is not illegal to start a fire that does not harm anyones person or property. But it is illegal to start a fire that may threaten another person or their property. In some states, this is considered ARSON, even if no one is hurt or nothing is damaged.

    Some will argue that they have the right to burn their own house down. Wrong, they do not since it potentially threatens additional exposures. In most jurisdictions, the matter of the "Clean Air Act" will arise, a situation that may cause injury to another by way of fumes, smoke, or reduced air quality. Most States require a permit to burn; trash, pastures, debris, ect; without a permit, a fire cannot be legal.

    Some believe that if their house should catch on fire, it will be better to let it burn, for insurance purposes. This is wrong, the Insurance Company really would like for us to extinguish the fire and limit the damage as much as possible. There will almost always be a follow-up investigation as to the cause and nature. And again, there is the issue of potential threat to adjacent exposures.

    But when confronted with this, I have to ask myself several things:

    Q: Is this person truly the homeowner? Am I going to accept his word or do I want proof?

    A: At some point I will want proof, but my first priority is to gain control. I will establish his identity at the first opportunity. But if confronted with this situation, law enforcement will be summoned.

    Q: Is it possible that this person has just committed a crime? Perhaps Arson, Murder, etc...

    A: It will cross my mind. But again, I will deal with this after we have control. I am not going to try to figure this out in the first minutes. Although, if I have the manpower, I might park someone on him to watch his activities. Again, law enforcement will be summoned.

    Afterthought: In the event we are hampered by the individual, the issue comes to the table of the potential danger to additonal exposures. My decision almost always will be to detain and charge the individual with felony assault on a firefighter if they should cause us any delay or hamper our efforts. If I am feeling really generous, I will also levy ARSON (some level) as well if I believe the person's actions delay our actions.

    And as a parting gift, we bill the person for the call.

    I was once sued for "Assault and Battery on Personal Property". This was an individuals course of action to fight the Arson, Assault on a Firefighter and AWDW charges he received while he tried to stop our actions. He took the matter a bit extreme when he pulled a gun and pointed it at my Captain's face. He was immediately tackled and subdued by another firefighter. Let's just say, medical attention was required.

    He received 5 years when found guilty on all counts. The judge asked the guy's attorney if his client was playing with a full deck as he dismissed his lawsuit against me and the department. We collected about $13,000 for Services Rendered from the Insurance Company as they pursued their own action against him.

    It never makes me feel good about charging for services when someone is having the worst day of their life. But if that is what is allowed in your jurisdiction, then you have a duty to do it. Fire Protection is everyone's responsibility, even if they have limited resources. We must protect and serve without regard to an individuals station in life. Your department does not operate for free, or without costs. Everyone must pay their share for the service they receive. Remember, it is our responsibility to be a good steward of the public trust, and we must be closley scrutinized as to the things we do.
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL


    • #32
      Let it burn?

      When a property owner demands that we allow their property to burn, we must consider any parties that have any financial interest in that threatened property.

      Those parties can be:
      1) The insurance company that provides coverage on that property.
      2) A financial institution that has a loan/lien against that property.
      3) A utility that has an easement to access that property and has utility property
      power poles, etc.) on that premises.

      Chances are, there are one or more of these parties that have interest in any property that
      someone wants to let burn.

      If someone hampers the fire department in fighting a fire on their property and then files an insurance claim for the fire damage, this could constitute insurance fraud.

      In some states, there are statues that make a property owner civilally liable, if they fail to control a fire and it spreads from their property to another.

      If you have frequent incidents where people demand a fire to burn, then you should seek legal counsel from your jurisdiction's attorney on what to do. Chances are the property owner is wrong, but there is a right and wrong way to handle the issue.


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