Last night I read about this family whose house burned down because they didn't pay the fire department a $75 fire protection fee. The fire department literally stood around and watched the house burn, not doing anything until the fire spread to a neighbors property, a neighbor who HAD paid the fee. The fire fighters put out the fire on the neighbors property but still did nothing to stop the original fire.
The more I read about this and the more I think about it, the more upset I become. There are plenty of factors in play in this story, plenty of arguments about who was wrong and who was right. The house in question was outside of county lines and therefore not under the fire departments jurisdiction, hence the optional fire protection fee since people outside county lines don't pay into the taxes that normally support the fire department. And yes, fire departments do need funding, you can't pay a fire fighter with hugs and sunshine and you can't buy the life saving equipment they use with good wishes. Three years ago the same family had a chimney fire and had not paid their protection fee and the fire department responded anyway, letting them pay the fee after putting out the fire. Some might say the family had simply not learned their lesson the first time and now must deal with the consequences. Others blame the mayor, who was notified of the fire and told the fire department to stand down.
I could spend all day listing who should have done what and when and trying to figure out who's really to blame for this home burning to the ground, but really, that's not my point.
My point is that when there's a fire - you put it out. That's it. End of story. It doesn't matter where it's located, who owns the property, what kind of resources are necessary. When there's a fire, and you have the ability to put it out, YOU PUT THE FIRE OUT. You could get wrapped up in laws and fees and bureacracy OR you remember that you're a human being and do what's right. Human beings help each other. We help a kid up when they trip on the sidewalk. We help the guy stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. We bring a meal to a neighbor who's sick. We put the damn fire out.
Not to mention the fact that this pay-for-rescue system is just incredibly flawed and dangerous to the public as a whole. I said this on a gawker.com forum last night, but I'll say it again here because I feel it makes my point: The fire spread to a neighbors property and was put out - but only on their property. What if the fire hadn't been so easily contained? Putting out one house on fire doesn't just save that home, it can save entire neighborhoods. Waiting for a fire to spread before doing anything about it is scarily stupid and incredibly dangerous.
In the end, I suppose that all I can say is this: Remember you're a person. Don't be afraid to do what's right even when you don't have to or someone tells you not to bother. Help the little old lady to cross the street. Give a lost stranger directions. Give your friend a ride to the airport even if it IS a total pain in the ass. Be kind.
Don't let a house burn down.