Apparently pets were still inside the home and died in the fire. Three dogs and a cat.
As for the firefighters, what strikes me as particularly odd is that they went all the way out there and had their equipment ready in order to protect the nearby property of those who had paid, but they did not protect the Cranick family's home. That just sounds like spite.
Also, Gene Cranick apparently offered to pay for the service as he was making his emergency call. Of course I understand why having people pay on the spot can't normally be the policy, but it would seem hard to justify this kind of thing on a policy technicality.
When I look at this, I do indeed think someone should find a way to make it a tax-funded service. Technically, by the rules, this guy did incur the price has now payed. But I don't think those should be the rules. I do not think that a matter this critical should be driven by a toll fee. I also have to wonder if there are means of exemption. There often are with taxes, but who's to say about this?
At any rate, a doctor can't let an uninsured person die of health complications in front of him/her, and a police officer can't let a tax evader be beaten to death in front of him/her. I consider these good things. The same standard should apply to firefighters.