The article states that he "forgot". (In quotes.) There's no clarification that he had paid prior years on time or if he had been "forgetting" for several years. If anyone had been injured as a result of them not showing up over a $75 annual fee, then there would be a lot more shit hitting the fan.
Since his insurance is paying part of the loss, I'm assuming their stance on this will be very important. If they hold the homeowner to a higher standard because of his failure to pay, then he's lost everything and won't receive much compensation. If the insurance takes the view that this was a preventable loss and that the fire department should've shown up regardless, then this could be interesting.
The fire department should've shown up in either case. Worst case, he honestly forgot to pay this year and they'll get $75 out of showing up. If he's "forgotten" to pay the past few years, then they'll have grounds for a lien on this property until he can reimburse them for their costs.
If the neighbour's sustained any damage, I wonder who they'll go after. The broke guy who just lost everything, or the fire department?