Author Topic: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.  (Read 7360 times)

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Offline Jesterhead

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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39535911/ns/us_news-life/

This is pretty unbelievable. I don't understand how any one could just stand there and refuse to even make an effort over such a trivial thing  :mozgus:

Would they refuse to aid them if a person was trapped inside the burning home?

Offline CowTip

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2010, 11:27:56 AM »
While I agree that this is terrible, you're fooling yourself if you think that everyone and their uncle wouldn't be taking advantage of the system if they could get away with it. A required fee that people could be fined for would be nice, but the whole point is that these people aren't within city limits meaning the city can't force those people to do anything. This whole thing is morally gray at best.

Offline The Beast of Darkness

Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2010, 11:42:34 AM »
I've already heard about it.
What a bunch of fuckers, they let his house and pets burn only because of a $75 fee that he didn't paid...
Seriously what a fucking world we live in... :sad:

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2010, 12:32:52 PM »
Sadly, this is a common policy in rural areas. I live in Tennessee and I've actually written an article or two on the subject for my local paper. It's fucked up, is what it is. There will always be jurisdictional confusions in a small town because there isn't a large enough taxbase to support a countywide fire service. Small towns cant afford it, so what you end up getting are departments that are overworked and underpaid with limited coverage areas.

The article you posted doesn't explain the problem well enough, so I'll do my best, based on my own experience with it.

Say your home is just outside a given city's limits. You don't pay city taxes, and aren't covered by city services (police and fire). You are, however, covered by the county's services. Well, the county's fire department might be 15 miles away. Though the city's fire department is only 5 miles away, they aren't jurisdictionally responsible for protecting your home, because they have to draw the line on their coverage areas somewhere. You happen to live outside it. However, if you live within a close margin of that line, you can pay an annual fee to get city coverage. Don't pay that? Well, you get county coverage and your house may burn to the ground.

The trouble with this is that no one really knows about this program. It's not advertised because, surprise surprise, the fire department doesnt have an advertising budget.

I've heard testimonies from emergency dispatchers who've lied to the fire departments about where the fire is, just to ensure that home is saved. Say a home at 100 Creek Road is on the subscription service, but the fire is at 103 Creek Road, and that home isn't on the plan. That dispatcher would have an ethical dilemma. Should they report the home that's on fire, or the one that's not, knowing that once the fire personnel get there, they'd be inhuman not to put out the fire on the neighbor's home once they've arrived?

What surprises me in this particular instance is that the firefighters were already there, and didn't put it out and bill them later. And that's what got them national media attention, despite this being an existing problem for decades.

Offline CowTip

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2010, 12:41:33 PM »
There's something to be said for personal responsibility and knowing what to do in emergency situations here. Growing up we lived out in the middle of the boonies so I understand some of these problems, but even in this case the guy makes it sound like he knew this program existed considering how many times he claims that he just forgot to pay the fee. It's interesting that the stories I've read haven't mentioned anything about county fire. Did anyone even bother to try to call it in or is there some other weird policy that exists in Tennessee.

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2010, 12:45:00 PM »
It's interesting that the stories I've read haven't mentioned anything about county fire. Did anyone even bother to try to call it in or is there some other weird policy that exists in Tennessee.
Read my post above for more, but normally what would happen is that if you live outside a city, the county's fire department would be called in as the "primary responders" to the fire. The city's FD may also be called in to support the county's FD with additional equipment and water, but they would not be the primary responders. They'd wait on the county's guys, even if they're like 15-20 minutes away. By then, the house may already be too far gone.

Another thing, there's an easy solution to this problem, but rural Southern areas don't like it -- higher taxes. If the county established a countywide fire service, there'd be no jurisdictional gray areas. But that would cost extra, and DEM SOUTHERNERS DONT LIKE THEM NO TAXES NO SIREE!

Offline asic

Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2010, 01:14:31 PM »
that is pretty inhumane, why not just put out the fire and give the person a fine afterwards instead? Was the house several miles away or did they literally stand right next to it? It sounds unreal to me but then again I live in a tiny country with somewhat petty problems.

Offline Aazealh

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2010, 02:33:22 PM »
Honestly, not doing anything while they were already at the scene sounds like an aberration to me. There's a point where common sense should take precedence over procedure. I don't like scapegoating but I think the guys present at the time should all be disciplined.

Like Walter said though, the real problem is the system itself, and one way or another it should be changed.

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2010, 03:39:42 PM »
I don't like scapegoating but I think the guys present at the time should all be disciplined.

Like Walter said though, the real problem is the system itself, and one way or another it should be changed.
Well, I think it's pretty simple. If I had a say in it, they would all be fired for showing a obscene lack of character and sense of moral duty. And if their department makes their firefighters swear an oath (many do), they should be fired for that as well.

It'd also be a good way to rehabilitate this town's image. Their fire department isn't going to shed this stigma for years to come. But if you weed out all the morons who made this decision, then that would help.

Here's the story I wrote on the problems my county had, back in July
Quote

If a fire breaks out in your home, how close are you to the nearest fire station? What agency will respond, and how long will it take before they get there?

These are some questions Dickson City Fire Marshal Robbie Street said are common among homeowners. But he said there is an easy way to find out these answers: Call your local fire station or contact your insurance company.

Two weeks ago, a home on Iron Hill Road burned to the ground before firefighters could put out the flames. The primary agency to respond to the fire was Dickson County Fire and Rescue Squad, a volunteer group tasked with covering any area outside municipal boundaries — the cracks that fall between all 490 square miles of the county.

It’s a big job, but it’s not a big department, and they can’t be everywhere at once. Thankfully, there are several other agencies responsible for the most habited areas of the county. But who covers your home?

Burns Volunteer Fire Department Chief Melvin Sullivan told the Burns council that he received dozens of phone calls following the Iron Hill fire, asking why Burns wasn’t the primary responder. They have a Burns mailing address, but aren’t within Burns city limits, Sullivan said.

“Some people get confused about coverage. They think they have a service that they don’t,” he said.

Homeowners that live within city limits pay city taxes, which gives them access to city services such as police and fire. But for those that live just outside a city’s boundaries, things get a little more complicated.

Homeowners within a five-mile radius of any fire station in White Bluff, Burns or Dickson can subscribe to Rural Fire Service for an annual fee. This effectively gives them city fire service coverage even if they don’t live within the city’s limits.

White Bluff Fire Chief Eric Deal said the town began offering the service five years ago because they were repeatedly responding to fire calls outside the city’s limits.

“It got to the point where it wasn’t fair to the taxpayers — footing the bill for the fire department to go on fire calls outside the city limits,” he said.

Residents interested in signing onto the service can contact their local City Hall or fire station for more information, Deal said. White Bluff’s subscription service is $150 annually.

Burns and Dickson’s price is based on a percentage value of your home. Street said it could cost a few hundred dollars a  year, but enhancing your fire coverage lowers your home insurance costs, he said.

“We’re staffed 24-7, 365 days a year, and our Insurance Service Organization rating is lower than if you live outside the city,” he said. “If you’ve got coverage with us, usually that makes your insurance lower. So that’s a reason a lot of people subscribe to us.”

Most homeowners that don’t live in the city, or within the five-mile radius of the subscription service, still live within the coverage areas of the five rural volunteer fire departments scattered across the county — Claylick, Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee City,  Yellow Creek and Harpeth Ridge. These departments are paid for by tax dollars and through fundraisers, and are staffed by volunteers.

Still, there are other areas of the county that don’t fall under any of the above services.

“There are areas throughout the county, such as south of the interstate, Abiff, Spencer Mill, a lot of those places don’t have a volunteer department near them, so that would be covered by the rescue squad alone,” Street said.

“We don’t run wrecks outside the city or for medical calls,  unless we’re asked for assistance, we have mutual aid agreements,” he said. “But as far as fire coverage, we don’t go (outside city limits) unless they’re a subscriber to our service.”

Offline CowTip

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2010, 05:40:43 PM »
Considering these guys very well could have lost their jobs for going against policy, I don't think it's exactly fair to say they should be thrown out, especially when no one's lives were in danger. I think it's crappy, but I don't think the firemen are at fault here.

Offline Aazealh

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2010, 05:52:51 PM »
no one's lives were in danger

When your home and all your belongings are destroyed I think it's fair to say your life is ruined. Lost their jobs for going against policy you say? They were already there. I bet just going there already cost them more than the $75 the guy hadn't paid. And firing someone for saving a person's home instead of letting it burn while he could stop it would have been a very bad idea as far as publicity goes.

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2010, 05:55:00 PM »
Considering these guys very well could have lost their jobs for going against policy, I don't think it's exactly fair to say they should be thrown out, especially when no one's lives were in danger.
Three dogs and one cat died in the fire.

I hate to be a romantic sap, but sometimes you have to just do the right thing in the face of a shitty policy. This was a bad decision on the part of whoever was in charge of the firefighters that day. Someone made the call. They had the equipment, they had the water, they had the technical knowhow, they should have done the job and billed them later.

Offline Jesterhead

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2010, 05:57:59 PM »
It's shocking that they stopped the flames spreading to the neighbors home but not theirs. How hard can it be to spray a little water the other way?  

Offline Lithrael

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2010, 06:28:27 PM »
Three dogs and one cat died in the fire.

I don't know if I can blame the FD for that part though.  It started as an outdoor trash fire a ways from the doublewide; you'd think the family would have time to let the pets out of the place before it got too crazy.  They had time to screw around trying to put the fire out with garden hoses.  If the trailer was already a smoky blaze by the time the FD got there those pets would already have been asphyxiated.  I haven't seen enough detail for this story to accuse the firefighters of killing anybody's pets.

Subscription service is the worst way to handle emergency services.  The real villain here is the political dick who decided to set up a subscription system instead of raising that money through taxes, just so he'd be more popular with the ONOZ TAXES people.

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2010, 06:33:19 PM »
I don't know if I can blame the FD for that part though.  It started as an outdoor trash fire a ways from the doublewide; you'd think the family would have time to let the pets out of the place before it got too crazy.  They had time to screw around trying to put the fire out with garden hoses.  If the trailer was already a smoky blaze by the time the FD got there those pets would already have been asphyxiated.  I haven't seen enough detail for this story to accuse the firefighters of killing anybody's pets.

Subscription service is the worst way to handle emergency services.  The real villain here is the political dick who decided to set up a subscription system instead of raising that money through taxes, just so he'd be more popular with the ONOZ TAXES people.
I understand all that. But try to imagine, three dogs in a fire. The firefighters probably heard the barking, and how it eventually stopped... but stood by because they were ordered not to battle the blaze because of "a policy." Regardless of orders, they had the option of stopping that situation, and chose not to.

It's just plain wrong.

Offline Lithrael

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2010, 06:35:45 PM »
The firefighters probably heard the barking ...

If that were the case I'd agree.  I'm not going to judge the guys based on my imagination, though.

Offline Ramen4ever

Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2010, 07:57:03 PM »
This reminds me of those scenes in firefighter movies where an individual will go against policy because of their own belief in what's morally right.. Except the exact fucking opposite, in this case.





Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2010, 08:08:47 PM »
I made some calls today, working on a follow-up story for my paper. What our local chief said was reassuring.

Quote
...
The incident caused a national media stir, drawing opinions on both sides of the argument. But Dickson County's fire coverage is set up similar to Obion County. Neither has a countywide fire service, and relies instead on pockets of coverage provided by municipal fire departments and volunteer departments.

So, could the situation that happened in Obion County happen locally? Dickson City Fire Chief Richard Greer said, “not in Dickson.”

“We wouldn’t just sit and let it burn. We would take action,” Greer said. “It goes back to ethical and moral conduct. … We’re not going to sit and let a house burn down just because someone didn’t pay a small fee.”

Greer said when a 911 call is made, dispatchers determine what area agency covers the home. At that point, the threat is assessed and the correct agency is dispatched. Greer said city firefighters may be dispatched to assist with the county’s unit, whether the home in question is on a subscription service or not.

“What we’d do is contact the county department that covers that area, have them respond, then we’d respond and provide our apparatus and start fighting it,” Greer said.

The fire chief of Hornbeak, in Obion County, said it was up to the county government to establish a countywide fire service, if residents didn’t think the rural fire subscription service was the best option.

“Fire departments know the rural subscription program is not the best fire service delivery method. But our county leaders have left us with no other option for the rural property owners to pay their fair share of the cost and expense associated with operating and maintaining our fire departments,” said Bob Reavis in a press conference Thursday.

Dickson County Mayor Bob Rial said establishing a countywide fire service is a long-term goal he’d like to aspire to, but given the county’s current economic troubles, he doesn’t see it as financially feasible.

“Unfortunately it’s cost-prohibitive right now, what it would cost to get a full fire department up and running,” Rial said. “The only way to get it would be to raise funding through the county’s tax rate. And to get into that type of service right now is just not feasible.”
As I said earlier, it comes down to a reluctance to increase taxes that would provide a fundamental service to living in a modern setting.

Offline Turkitage

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2010, 09:26:17 PM »
Honestly, not doing anything while they were already at the scene sounds like an aberration to me. There's a point where common sense should take precedence over procedure. I don't like scapegoating but I think the guys present at the time should all be disciplined.

Like Walter said though, the real problem is the system itself, and one way or another it should be changed.

Alright, I think most of us agree the system is broke with subscription fee etc, that much I can agree on. Before I get into it... Just note to that the guy said he "forgot" to pay the fee (like cowtip mentioned) meaning he knew it existed. Well, how long was he not paying this fee for? I didn't see it in the article nor from the original place I heard this story from. But, he could have "forgot" to pay the fee for more than 15 years and that adds up - again I have no clue if he just didn't pay this year or not.. just saying.

SO, like Walter mentioned, someone made the call and ordered those firefighters not to help that resident because they didn't pay the fee. The firefighters are doing their job that there boss told them to do. Directly going against your bosses orders or policies will result in discipline actions or get fired. I don't agree with you at all Aaz that the firefighters should get disciplined. If my boss tells me to do something against my morale or will I will more then likely do it so I don't get in trouble. If it is too much of a morale issue then I'll voice my opinion and/or find another job - that simple. So these firefighters knew this policy ahead of time and knew this day would come as part of the job - though I'm sure smaller instances of this has already happened but just didn't make the news. So while that subscription system is stupid and if a better one in place this wouldn't be an issue. I think that resident got what they deserved for not paying the fees. They know the risk they take if they don't pay for these services and not prioritizing paying this fee is a critical mistake on his part.. IF in fact he "forgot". These are rules in which he knew ahead of time based on his location of his home. Don't like it? go to some other state and live by their rules.

Three dogs and one cat died in the fire.

I hate to be a romantic sap, but sometimes you have to just do the right thing in the face of a shitty policy. This was a bad decision on the part of whoever was in charge of the firefighters that day. Someone made the call. They had the equipment, they had the water, they had the technical knowhow, they should have done the job and billed them later.

Absolutely agree this is a shitty policy and the person that made the call to those firefighters should have considered the circumstances before he put his foot down. Rules are rules, policies are policies and it would of made logical sense to put out the fire and bill them later - I would of liked that a lot better as far as bending the rules. But if I hurt myself without insurance and have to go to the hospital I can't just call an insurance company while on the way to the hospital then use that insurance to help cover the bill.

Regarding the three dogs and cat that died. It's sad but what Lithrael said was the first thing that came to my mind (they didn't have time to save their pets) - but who knows? things can happen really fast in those moments so I understand. So in order to save those dogs and cats they would have more then likely had to put out the fire and would that of changed if it was a child inside? You bet. A human life, in our current society, is valued more then these domesticated animals. So if there was a child in that house I would assume they would have done what it takes to rescue it - than again I don't know. Dogs, cats, children can't really fend for themselves in this situation so in this case they didn't make the decision to not pay for the subscription fee (And they didn't make the decision to live with these people or life itself) so I do feel the dog and cats should have been saved (if they weren't already dead by the time they got there) as they can't voice their opinion and are innocent bystanders.  (no children died in this, just using it as an example).

With all this being said. I don't wish harm on anyone and the idea of this residents stuff being burnt, and pets dying is horrible. I'm simply saying you better understand your living environment and all the rules that go with it. If you don't then you're the person that put yourself at risk. If you don't like the rules then go find some other place to live. For the most part you have to live by some type of rule, regulations, policies, taxes.. etc. So for the most part it's best to find a place the rules bother you the least. That's just the way I see it.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2010, 07:06:52 PM by Turkitage »
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Offline Lithrael

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2010, 09:59:35 PM »
The fire department has said that it is indeed their policy to respond even without coverage to save a person. 
As far as I can tell what happened was that the homeowner called emergency services several times before the fire had spread to the trailer home but firefighters did not go out there at all until the covered neighbor called.  The homeowner said once they arrived they said it was too late to fight the fire at his place, and then ignored him.  I can't figure out from the internets what state the trailer home was in when the firefighters arrived. 

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #20 on: October 08, 2010, 10:39:57 PM »
Yeah, that's what I'm getting from a little more digging as well. From one of the first stories written about the incident:

Quote from: http://www.nwtntoday.com/news.php?viewStory=46801
The fire that sparked the controversy apparently broke out about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Gene Cranick’s property on Buddy Jones Road, located outside the city limits of South Fulton.
Vowell explained that the property owner was not a paying member of the rural fire subscription service offered to county residents by the City of South Fulton. He said as per city policy, established by city ordinance, the call was declined and the city’s fire department could not respond.
Which is scary, because if that's the case, it happens all the time. This exact situation happened in my county in July, prompting me to do a story on it. This one got national attention because it aired on a television news station.  :schierke:

It also seems dishonest of news sites to be perpetuating the belief that firefighters literally watched the trailer burn down, since that doesn't seem to be  the situation. They didn't even get dispatched to the scene until later. Big difference.

Offline CowTip

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #21 on: October 09, 2010, 04:14:48 AM »
Regardless, it's just not that easy to go against policy if your job is on the line. A bunch of firefighters lose their job in one of the worst economic environments in awhile (especially when it comes to state and city funding which is who these guys work for) all because some guy irresponsibly didn't pay a fine he knew existed. Again, if they left someone inside to burn, that might have turned things around, but if this guy didn't pay his fee nor have proper insurance on his stuff, he was just asking for trouble to begin with. Should these firefighters lives potentially be destroyed over something like that? What about their families? Even if it was the dispatchers fault in the end, the same argument can be said. I'm sympathetic to the guy losing his belongings and the animals that had to pay the price for his irresponsibility, but I don't think it's fair that someone else has to take the bullet when the crappy rules were already laid out.

Blame the bureaucracy and the rules. At the very least this incident has gotten the news out and maybe we can see some change, but limited resources will always lead to problems like this no matter what anyone does.

Offline Walter

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #22 on: October 09, 2010, 05:44:27 AM »
Hey CowTip, what would Guts do?  :guts:

Offline CowTip

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2010, 06:03:07 AM »
I can't help but think he'd just walk away looking awesome in the flames. "Not my problem."

Puck might have something to say about it though.  :puck: (which usually leads to Guts' life ending up a lot more complicated) That Puck emoticon so fits this whole situation.  :ganishka:

Offline Aazealh

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Re: Firefighters watch a house burn to the ground over a $75.00 fee.
« Reply #24 on: October 09, 2010, 07:50:04 AM »
SO, like Walter mentioned, someone made the call and ordered those firefighters not to help that resident because they didn't pay the fee. The firefighters are doing their job that there boss told them to do. Directly going against your bosses orders or policies will result in discipline actions or get fired. I don't agree with you at all Aaz that the firefighters should get disciplined. If my boss tells me to do something against my morale or will I will more then likely do it so I don't get in trouble. If it is too much of a morale issue then I'll voice my opinion and/or find another job - that simple.

Nah dude, it's not that simple. It seems the situation wasn't as originally portrayed, but let's talk hypothetically. If these guys had been there, watching a home burn down and not budging while they could have saved it, then it's their personal responsability that's engaged. Sometimes in life you have to show initiative. "Just following orders" is a copout in a situation like that, as shown by the media attention it got. And there are certain professions that engage people's responsabilities more than others. That's why they're considered "noble" and why people doing them are honored. It's a vocation, like being a doctor or a cop, not just something you do because it pays well.

I think that resident got what they deserved

Well I think you're harsh with them. I hope something like that never happens to you or someone you know. And if it does I'm sure you'll keep the same attitude.