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How to Privatize the Fire Department

If you use your imagination, it's not that hard to imagine a business model where you can completely privatize the fire departments.

Right now, there are already companies like ADT which sell home security systems that alert the fire department in case of fire or high carbon monoxide.

You also have GM which has their ONSTAR feature, so that if you're in an accident they'll automatically send in emergency roadside assistance.

You also have many car insurance companies which offer emergency roadside assistance as one of the features on their insurance policies.

What if you create a business model with a home insurance company, just like an auto insurance company, that is connected electronically to a home security system, so that if there is a fire, they'll respond automatically. The home insurance companies could then contract with privately owned fire fighting businesses. The fire fighting businesses would then have to compete with each other for the best response times, the best survival rates, the best safety records, the lowest cost, etc. in order to successfully obtain contracts from the insurance companies. The consumers could then use internet websites which keep track of these things and rates insurance companies on their performance in order to make sure they have access to the best firefighters and the lowest cost, and they could probably save money this way because they wouldn't need to pay taxes for the firefighters.

The only thing you would really need from the government to make sure that all of the people who are affected by a catastrophe are covered by insurance, is to mandate that every home owner must have an insurance policy that has a certain amount of minimum coverage for fire, just like how the government mandates minimum coverage for liability for every car owner.

It's kind of a problem that I see that the idea is a little coercive since it forces consumers to give their money to a coorporation, but it's also coercive for the government to force someone to pay taxes so that's kind of a draw. The big advantage to this would be that it would bring competition to fire fighting so that you'd get lower cost and better quality. The idea for having a government mandate fire coverage just gets back to the debate about whether you think it's the governments responsibility to protect people from themselves. However, the privatization of the fire department is entirely doable. I would love to see some entrepreneur somewhere give this idea a try.

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Volunteer Fire Department

In my little community we have a volunteer fire department funded by taxes. Years ago we paid the fire department voluntarily.The catch was if you weren't paid up, they refused to put out the fire unless you paid a very substantial amount of money immediately (not talking about being behind a payment). Of course they saved lives. It seemed to work well, but government got into the act.
We still have private garbage pickup. Until recently never had to set the garbage out by the road. They came up to the house, took the cans and emptied them, returned them to the house. It was much better than government service.

It doesn't need to be that

It doesn't need to be that complicated ...

It's really Mr. Homeowner's responsibility to put out his own damn fire. If he wants, he could contract firefighting service with a local fire company of his choice. Homeowners shouldn't be forced to have insurance.
"Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." -- General John Stark.

"Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." -- General John Stark.

think about what you are saying...

Privatization and consolidation are a tool of the ELITE who have destroyed this country and many others. We should try to do more things like the fire dept not less.

Jeez go watch faux news dumb a$$!

"Hell is truth seen too late...duty neglected in its season."- Tryon Edwards

"Human beings with love and compassion are some of the most beautiful creatures in the universe... Those without are a plague on us all."

What I'm suggesting

is not consolidation, it's competition.

Consolidation is a government sanctioned monopoly, such as RedFlex's monopoly on issuing photo radar tickets.

Right now, the fire department is already a government monopoly, and it isn't held accountable by the marketplace for late emergency responses or high costs. The corporatism that I as a Libertarian don't like is when I'm forced by the government to pay to a single corporation for their service, but if I can choose which firefighers I want to respond to my calls the I don't see what the problem is.

Also, please show some respect to a fellow freedom fighter who's just trying to throw an idea around.

Over a hundred years ago we

Over a hundred years ago we tried privatized fire departments in this country. There were many problems .. the foremost being that these types of fire departments had a tendency of creating their own work. If you know what I mean. Also in a private model such as this you would have to have competing companies. One house next door might be covered by one fire company, and the yours by another. Which doesnt seem like too much of a problem until your neighbors flames leap over and effect your house.

However I agree something has to be done. Some states have a real problem with their fire departments ..California for example their firefighters can make over $200,000 per year because of the way the unions have structured their overtime, which is ridiculous and is an abuse of tax payer money. California firefighters work hard, and deserve to be paid well .. but $200K is insane. Half that would be about right for the cost of living and the work they sometimes have to do.

Firefighters still set many fires

see - http://www.state.sc.us/forest/lear.htm

Actually, in my area, the fire company that got to the fire first, was the one that got paid. That apparently led to some interesting confrontations when they arrived at the same time, given that the fire companies were also segregated by ethnicity.

Anyway, I suppose you could start outsourcing certain jobs, particularly those with very specialized training and those that are grunt work.

The difference between my idea

and the fire companies who would set fires intentionally is that the firefighters would be contracted by the home insurance companies. I think this would take away the incentive to set homes on fire because the consumer would pay directly to the insurance company for emergency fire response, just like emergency roadside assistance with auto insurance. Under that scenario, the consumer would want to pay the least possible for their home insurance so the insurance companies would compete and be forced to cut costs. One of the costs they would want to minimize is the cost to contract firefighters. The insurance companies have an incentive to try and prevent homes from catching fire because they don't want to have to pay out the homeowners who got their homes insured. They wouldn't be interested in giving the firefighters too much business because that is a cost to the insurance companies.


Yes form my experience, volunteer fire departments work very well in small towns. The EMS tend to also be that way.

They're is normally some compensation involved for going on calls, but it comes from private donors. No salaries involved, but if people wake up at 3 AM and go on a call for 2 hours, they normally get paid well while they are there.

IT's kind of a break even payment not to make bank.

Most fire departments started out as private companies

I'd rather go to the carnival and buy some raffle tickets than be forced to do anything with my own property. I hate the auto insurance rule and I don't like anyone telling me I have to have it for my house (even though I already have it, by CHOICE).
VFD's are private and work very well.

A very practical idea. Of

A very practical idea. Of course, as you said yourself, the fire department would not be TOTALLY private. Another idea would be to have private companies bid for the right to have fire services, but I like your idea better(although it would be more costly to individuals that a tax-funded plan).

Ventura 2012

Yes it would

be TOTALLY private, and FOR PROFIT!. I see no reason why multiple fire departments couldn't compete over the same territorial boundries. You have pizza delivery companies competing over the same territory.

How would it be more costly than a tax-funded plan? Both private and tax-funded have certain costs fixed for labor, maintinence, gas, etc. someone has to pay those bills. Assuming that a private, for profit, firefighter company would do everything it can to cut costs, how is it that the taxpayer funded plan would be cheaper? It only seems more costly to individuals because they are paying the costs directly. The tax-funded plan is probably more costly but since most people of modest means just assume others are paying for it, they don't feel the costs directly.


idea......in my city, we are being raked over the coals by both police/fire extraordinary salaries....pensions......benefits...powerful municipal union demands.

Privatize both

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa

wait a second. I'm all for privatizing the fire department, but before you suggest privatizing the police please explaing to me how that's going to stop them from doing any kind of extortion such as pulling you over just to get a commission on the speeding tickets they give out. Cops have a lot of official power and if you give them a profit incentive, how are you going to make sure they don't abuse it?

meekandmild's picture

IN MO most of the FIRE DEPTs are volunteer

witch are not for profit corporations and you have to pay membership dues to the department. Some are tax supported too.