Let’s try a different subject.
If your house catches fire, what’s the obligation of the fire department? I think everyone believes it is the job of the department to douse the flames, but that apparently is not the case. The job of the fire department is to make sure that the fire consuming your house doesn’t cause greater public damage. This has been a growing issue because of the two largest problems confronting fire departments arising out of hoarding–danger to the firefighters having to navigate clogged houses burning hotter because of fuel, and the cost to towns of multiple alarms to fight these enhanced fires. When a house is known to be cluttered, some towns are taking the position that they do not have to go in–they only need to contain. Some towns are going further-they want hoarders to either register with the town so that the town can make a determination not to go in, or they want the hoarder to pay the enhanced cost of fire suppression. This hasn’t been raised as a serious issue in Massachusetts yet, although its becoming an issue in Florida and California. A house fire in Wayland this week may put the issue squarely on the burner. A large accumulation of material in a home required three fire departments to douse the flames, making this a costly fire for the towns.
Who should pay for it? The homeowner? The taxpayers, who might have other priorities? The insurance company for the homeowner, who might even disclaim coverage on the grounds that the excess material was the proximate cause of loss and not the flames? The issue is coming soon to a town near you, so be ready for it.